Reply To: Some notes on Dara Marks' Transformational Arc

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Philippa East

That’s great, @raine, and so nicely explained.

I find so many similarities between the many varied “models” of story structure, and the many evolving models we use in psychiatry to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

Mental health conditions (the fairly predictable ways in which the human brain breaks down) have a sort of inherent “shape” to them, which we are ever striving to describe and model more clearly.

Similarly, I strongly believe that stories (which we have told and passed down over 1,000s of years) have an inherent, archetypal “shape” and structure to them which writing buffs continually try to model and describe.

Hero’s journey, Transformational arc, five commandments of story-telling, Pixar structure… they are all different ways of trying to model the inherent, archetypal “shape” of stories.

Why do stories even have / need this shape to “work”?

I think the “shape” of stories mirrors the psychological process of change we are all designed to go through as human beings. It’s captured in the stages-of-grief model:
1) denial
2+3) anger / bargaining
4) depression
5) acceptance

This fits with what Raine outlines above:
1) “resistance”
2+3) “pushed and pushed by external events, trying all of their previous coping mechanisms and seeing them all fail”
4) “death experience”
5) “‘Transformational Moment’ where they must make the conscious decision to change and accept their new self”

If we can write stories which have this fundamental, archetypal structure (whatever “model” we use to describe it) then these stories will be powerfully and deeply satisfying to our readers, because they mirror the deepest movements of our psyches.