Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Villain Drives the Story

By Steven Pressfield
Published: December 6, 2017

 

I sometimes get asked, “Why does Resistance exist?”

Stefan Gierasch as Del Gue in "Jeremiah Johnson"

Stefan Gierasch as Del Gue in “Jeremiah Johnson”

It’s a good question.

Why did Creation include this monster? For what purpose? Just to screw us all up and make life difficult?

(When I say “Resistance,” I mean in story terms “the Villain.”)

Isn’t Resistance entirely negative? What possible evolutionary purpose could it serve?

Here’s my answer. It might not be anybody else’s answer, but it’s mine.

 

Resistance gives meaning to life.

 

Or to put it in narrative terms:

 

The villain gives meaning to the story.

 

Think about it. If there were no villain, there’d be no story. If there were no Shark, no Terminator, no Alien … if there were no Coriolanus Snow, no Noah Cross, no Hannibal Lecter, we writers would be up a tree with no way down.

The villain drives the story.

The villain gives meaning to the story.

The snake (actually “the serpent”) in the Garden of Eden saved Adam and Eve from a life of picking fruit and hanging around naked and happy.

Is that Edenic life really human?

I mean seriously. Is that the noblest destiny our race can come up with?

It was supposed to be seen as a calamity when God kicked our original Mom and Pop out of the Garden. Maybe it was. But it was the greatest thing that ever happened to you and me as writers.

 

Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

 

Call this myth if you like, but I daresay there’s no truer depiction of life-as-we-live-it anywhere in literature.

The human condition is the ultimate villain, as it is the consummate blessing. The Almighty cast us forth into the Land of Nod, east of Eden, because we dared (no doubt blindly and obliviously, but dared nonetheless) to steal a share of His nature, that is, free will, the knowledge of good and evil, the capacity to create.

In our path He set evil, villainy, Resistance, that indelible, indefatigable aspect of our nature that craved despite everything to destroy itself.

How do we measure a hero in a story, except by the obstacles she faces and overcomes.

 

“‘Mongst Injuns,” Del Gue declares in the movie Jeremiah Johnson, “a tribe’s greatness is measured by how mighty its enemies be.”

 

Actors love to portray villains because they sense, even if they might not always be able to articulate it, that the villain drives the story. The villain gives meaning to the story.

If there were no villain, there would be no story.


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15 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Combatting the “DQ”

By Shawn Coyne | Published: December 8, 2017

How do you tune out dismissive quips about your work? Here’s an edited post from www.storygrid.com that explains and all too familiar event for anyone who has accomplished anything…

Ten years ago, I had knee replacement surgery.

As one is required to do after being made bionic, I imprisoned myself post-op at home. Rehab centers are strictly for the better insured. For the first two weeks, I remained doped up on Oxycodone in between grueling physical therapy sessions.

A charming older woman, an emigre from the Philipines, came to my apartment every afternoon at 2:30. And tortured me…but in the sweetest way possible.

I’m so excited today…we’re going for 130 degrees of motion! We’re going to crack apart that gunk stuck in your new knee once and for all!”

In between those medieval manipulations, I stared slack-jawed at daytime television.


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What It Takes

What It Takes

Spend Your Time

By Callie Oettinger | Published: December 1, 2017

I. The patient took the pain medicine as prescribed and didn’t understand why the doctor was upset.

Patient’s point of view: He was in pain and followed the instructions on the bottle.

Doctor’s point of view: The pain medicine was prescribed by the patient’s veterinarian, for the patient’s dog.

II. The drug rep walked into the doctor’s office dressed as the Grim Reaper and didn’t understand why the doctor asked him to leave.

Drug rep’s point of view: It was Halloween, he was having fun.

Doctor’s point of view: He had patients with life-threatening diseases/illnesses. The last thing they needed was to be met by the Grim Reaper upon a visit to their doctor’s office.

III. The office manager put examination table paper on all of the doctor’s examination tables and didn’t understand why the doctor asked him to remove it.

Office manager’s point of view: It was free paper provided by a drug company and would save money.

Doctor’s point of view: It was flat out wrong to have a young teenage girl sitting on examination table paper that advertised a drug for erectile dysfunction.

These are true stories (well true, but with a few tweaks . . . ).


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Posted in What It Takes | 21 Comments
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