In these times of tension and conflict, when people around the world argue and take up arms over the merits of different governmental, economic, and ecological systems, when many struggle just for life and basic human rights, and when amidst all this there are glorious beams of light and hope and shining visions of a better world –-
It is the story-tellers who can really make the difference.
As Plato observed, “Those who tell the stories rule society”. The stories are changing. They must if humanity is to survive, along with many other species.
The story-teller is a Pilot of the Planes of Story, taking us along for what we hope is an exhilarating ride. What are those planes? The same as the planes of reality, of physics and metaphysics.
Physical, Emotional, Mental, Creative-Spiritual
The myth-making Initiates of the Mystery Schools in every time and culture have used these powerful tools of communication. Since every ‘True Myth’ is true on at least seven levels, story-tellers can select different ways to emphasize aspects of the timeless tales to apply to today.
And you can come up with unique new ones to overlay and interweave with the classics.
What we need to do is be more conscious of what we want to say and of the clever and organic ways to say it that will engage others and inspire them to be aware and hopefully to take action. Always in entertaining ways, of course.
As you construct your story, you may find that you want to begin on the Inspirational Plane, then the heroine is knocked down into Physical survival Plane and through the course of the story must use her wits and her persuasive powers to rise back up. Because he is a high-ranking General in line to possibly become Emperor of Rome, Russell Crowe’s Maximus in Gladiator could be seen to follow this pattern. Just think of that film’s tagline, “What we do in life echoes in Eternity”.
Or you might be telling a rags-to-riches story and the person starts out stuck in the Physical Plane but has growing ambitions (Emotional Plane). The very popular Pretty Woman does that.
Some stories are limited to two levels but work well, such as The Imitation Game wherein the character vacillates between the Mental and the Emotional Planes. Creed moves between the Physical and the Emotional, with the successes or failure in each Plane affecting subsequent motivations and actions in the other.
Another way to use the Planes would be to explore the wide variety of expressions on the sliding scale of dark-to-light.
On the Physical Plane you have the vibrant fecundity of the natural world and radiant good health of the physical form. At the other end you have injury, slaughter, death, and decay.
On the Emotional Plane you have people who have healthy emotions, feel confident, and are strong in their sense of self. On the opposite of that you find people who are ultra-sensitive, easily wounded, and insecure.
On the Mental Plane the spectrum runs between people who are completely rational, very analytical, and very precise and in control of their creativity. On the opposite side are people who are all talk, know-it-all’s, or very unstructured and often ineffective in their creative endeavors.
On the Spiritual Plane it’s pretty much all good. Those who have been on this plane and learned how to use it but have turned to the Dark Side typically then operate on lower planes. See more at Darth Vader and Saruman.
Regardless of what Plane a particular plot point plays out on, you can enrich your story by having some reference to another Plane within that same sequence.
For instance, you might have an argument between two characters where one is coming from an Emotional focus and the other from a Mental one. A film that illustrates this very well is Bull Durham, a delightful mélange of nuclear physics, Oriental philosophy, mystic poetry, love, lust, and baseball.
Black Panther is a film that accomplishes a full touchdown on all four Planes. Besides the scientist Shuri on the Mental Plane, see what others you can recognize.
The Indiana Jones series is full-on Physical adventure but also contains lofty Spiritual aspects in the search for the artifacts: the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Crystal Skulls. [Yeah, just pass on by the Temple of Doom, a dropped stitch in the series.]
One way to widen the appeal of so-called “chick flicks” (Emotional Plane) is to add aspects of the other Planes. A great example of this is Romancing the Stone, which combines the Emotional and the Physical in a fun romp that satisfies both the romantics and the adventurous.
In The Hit Man’s Bodyguard, disgraced Ryan Reynolds escorts hit man Samuel L. Jackson to testify in the World Court at The Hague. In a battle of Planes, Reynolds has aspirations but keeps being brought down by Jackson: the higher he tries to go, the more problems he runs into. Both also have love problems with their girlfriends.
So in the four Planes you have many combinations of choices for your plot points and can create rich and complex characters as well as situations that are both exciting and meaningful.
This is where the way you pilot your own creative choices can make all the difference in bringing vital contemporary meaning to the classical themes. No one will ever put together the same combination, so even though your story will resonate with Familiarity of the four Planes, it can also be Surprising because of the topics and causes you address. And that is what we require from all our stories – Familiarity and Surprise.
Your stories can soar, can entertain us, inspire us, and help change the world.
Pamela Jaye Smith
Check out Pamela’s class right here at SavvyAuthors!
Having trouble making your story fit the pattern of The Hero’s Journey? Can’t quite make those paradigms match your own characters and plot? Maybe that’s because your story is actually based on a different pattern.
Contrary to popular opinion, The Hero’s Journey is not the only mythic Theme. It’s certainly a good one but it is only one of many. A few years after the publication of Hero With a Thousand Faces, Dr. Joseph Campbell modified his position and observed that for different times and places there were different mythic structures and archetypes.
This book introduces you to many other powerful Mythic Themes ranging from “About Face” to “Damsel in Distress”, from “Stealing Fire From Heaven” to “The Wakeup Call”.
Each Mythic Theme is explained and explored via:
- Media Echoes – other media on the same theme
- The Myth itself
- Mythic Meaning
- Symbols, Analogies, Metaphors, and more
- Plot Points – guidelines for your own story
- Mythic Statements – Theme, Mission, and Lesson
Using the guidelines in this workbook you can:
- Refine and focus your story theme.
- Select an appropriate sub-plot to enhance your story.
- Use the Plot Points as guidelines for plot drivers, incidences, and scenes in your story.
- Use symbols and images to spark audience recognition.
- Maintain your originality while tapping into the timeless power of these classic myths.
- Take your place in the long line of myth-makers who create moving and memorable stories that engage and entertain your audience.