Every engaging story has one.
The protagonist is the person in the story who needs something and will not give up until they have it. It begins with an instigating moment – usually within the first ten to fifteen minutes of a movie – either our protagonist comes to the realisation that something must change, or their life is interrupted by something from outside.
We tell ourselves stories all the time: family stories, love stories, work stories. political stories, religious stories … . These stories contain the meaning and purpose we desire in our lives, our relationships, and for the world as we perceive and understand it..
Screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee writes about how we love a movie because of the way it provides us with both the opportunity to experience and to reflect. Usually we’re caught up in the busy experience of our lives without an opportunity or the means to ponder upon what is happening. This then is our slow journey insight.
In this story, you are the protagonist. Perhaps there’s a reason why you’ve picked up this book, or maybe someone gifted it to you but now there’s a thought playing on your mind as you’re colouring in this image.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell spoke about how we need both a personal myth and a social myth: one story for our lives, the other connecting us to our society and time. Making his remarks in the 1980s, Campbell warned that whilst we have left the myths of the past behind, life is happening too fast for new one ones to take form. Life has become faster still – think of the changes in the world that have occurred since 1986.
We often think of myths as a kind of fiction whereas they are most accurately understood as an attempt to say something about life more functional or everyday language could not do – stories to make visible the invisible about ourselves and our world.
We are writers of our own stories, not the victims of other people’s stories. Here are two examples that piqued my interest. An intriguing reality about life in Iceland is that 1 in 10 of the population will publish a book – we are learning to be publishers of our stories in a different way. A Moth story is a true story told on stage before other storytellers. It’s an extreme experience but the reality is, this is what we do every day of our lives when we turn up with the truth about ourselves.
SOMETHING TO DO: If you have a journal, take a few minutes to write about where you find yourself right now: a decision for the future you may have to make or a challenge you face. Perhaps life is calm, too calm, becalmed, and you need to reflect on why.
Pixar uses a six element template for all its movies. You may like to use this to write your story so far:
Once upon a time …
Every day …
One day …
Because of that …
Because of that …
Until finally …
What you will be able to create through your slow journey is a storyline or narrative arc: something bringing together all the elements of your life – towards the future. There’ll be several elements that you aren’t even aware of yet.
RESOURCES YOU MAY ENJOY:
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Story by Robert McKee
The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall
Beneath the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Jospeh Campbell
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull