Last time I was talking about structure and formula, I was talking about music — songs that are formulaic and modular, and the way their relatively rigid structures allow for creative expression. Today I want to look at (or at least start to look at) that concept in storytelling.
This is gonna be harder for me to pin down, I can already tell, for a number of reasons. First, there are so many different story structures out there, including many I’m probably not even familiar with. Second, because I think it’s really easy to just slip into kind of a Joseph Campbell/Edward Casaubon “key to all mythologies” mode, and that’s not exactly what I’m interested in. The hero’s journey and its related archetypes are certainly examples of this concept, but they’re not the only ones. How about we call what I’m talking about “formula stories,” to get away from the term “archetype” and its associated baggage a bit, and move on from there?
And having agreed on a vocabulary, let’s dive in.