Old Geeky Greeks:  

Write Stories using Ancient Techniques

Here’s a List for You ~

Blood tragedies.

public domain image, sketch may be viewed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Perseus displaying Medusa’s head: sketch by John Singer Sargent for his 1902 sculpture

Atonement.

I, Robot.

Harry Potter.

Ironman.

Hubris.

The 13th Warrior.

The scariest woman in all literature.

The Hobbit.

Dudley Dooright.

5 Stages of the Hero . . . and the Monster.

Jurassic Park, in all its iterations.

What do the items in this oddly-matched list have in common?

These stories all have origins with the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Sitting around fires after a day of hunting and gathering, the first writers developed techniques to influence their audiences. 

Those techniques have thousands of years of use and still hold true for capturing audiences.

The ancient Greeks (and Romans) of classical antiquity viewed the stories and dramas that were enduring.  And just like writers today, they searched and defined and classified the best techniques to create writings that pleased their audiences.

These old geeky Greeks laid the foundations.  Many of their techniques are still in use. Ideas original to them are re-packaged as glittery infographics and Wham-Pow webinars and three-point seminars with exclusive insights to Buy Now!

Clear and Quick Information

Old Geeky Greeks: Write Stories with Ancient Techinques presents such ideas as the Blood Tragedy and dulce etutile in a clear, organized method for writers who want to write rather than invest hours getting three snippets of information.

Chapters in OGG cover understanding characters to the five stages that established the modern protagonist from the ancient hero.  Aristotle’s requirements for plot precede a survey of the oldest plot formula, the Blood (or Revenge) Tragedy.  Concepts such as in medias res and dulce et utile can help writers solve sticky problems and develop new ideas.

Old Geeky Greeks (and Romans) looked at successful plays and other story-telling methods to determine what influenced the audience.

  • Which characters were still talked about weeks and months after a performance?
  • Which play structures failed—and which were consistently winners?
  • And which ideas helped writers develop their celebrated writings?
Writers today are still searching for the answers to these questions.

The bright minds of Classical Antiquity first explored these questions.  Their answers are applicable even in the age of the internet, open-source software, special effects, and infographics.

Aristotle, Seneca, Plato, Horace, and many other ancient geeks have their ideas matched to Harry Potter, Avatar, Last of the Mohicans, and Shakespeare.

Whether we’re writing novels or plays, blogs or non-fiction, poems and songs, Old Geeky Greeks (written by M.A. Lee and Emily R. Dunn) is a seminar in 28,000 words, just published on Amazon Kindle.

Buy it here!

John Singer Sargent’s sketch for his sculpture of Perseus

with Medusa’s head, provides the cover art for OGG.

 

Oh, those Men! . . . part 2

Hero Archetypes :: Leaders who don’t want Leadership

 “You must look into people as well as at them.” ~~ Lord Chesterfield

Hero Archetypes are natural leaders.  And leaders want to lead, right?

Not always.  Hero Archetypes come in many forms.

Alphas are natural leaders in the Hero Archetype sphere.  So are Betas, natural fulfillers of the Alpha’s goal who need no guidance.

Beta leaders will let a true Alpha lead the group while he (she) steps back and runs side missions.  However, faced with a bad leader, the Beta will mutiny.

Alpha Dog leaders get drunk on the power of leadership:  that doesn’t make them leaders.

Two other types of natural leaders will not seek the leadership position in a team.  These are the Gammas and the Deltas.

A true Raider of the Lost Ark
Often called an Explorer, Indiana Jones is actually a Gamma-Destroyer.

the Gamma Hero Archetype: the Leader who Refuses to Lead

The Gamma hero archetype has strong leadership potential but refuses to step into the position, even when a vacancy occurs.

His refusal of leadership does not prevent him from undermining any leader.  A natural rebel, he relishes causing a bad leader to fail. 

Unless something else drives his loyalty, the Gamma will walk away from a Ruler or Alpha Dog.  And he will not look back.

℘ Jung’s Destroyer Archetype is the best match to the Gamma.  Without a Destroyer hero archetype, society will fall into complacency and stagnation.

Gamma-Destroyers force any leader to remain forward-thinking since they represent a force for change.  After all, as Heraclitus tells us, the only constant is change.  

This hero archetype will help us accept that change and propel it into occurring.

 Types of Gammas/Destroyers

The classic leader who refuses to lead: Daryl in The Walking Dead

The Gamma-Destroyer~~

  • Works outside the group as a tangential lone-leader.
  • Analyzes and questions the direction of the team as well as the leader’s plans.
  • Forces leaders to remain forward thinking

The Gamma-Nihilist~~

  • Is the negative form of the Destroyer Hero Archetype.
  • Pursues the necessary change without considering consequences to the team.
  • May pursue change merely to cause change, not to bring out improvement.
  • Works in such isolation that he can be self-destructive.

In the Walking Dead tv series, Daryl is the Gamma.  He can lead, but he won’t.  When he was a little boy, he may have had any leadership tendencies beaten out of him by his violent older brother Murl.  

In the first season, he remains loyal to Murl, but the audience can see him inwardly questioning his brother’s plans.  Only blood loyalty restrains him.

For the Gamma-Destroyer, only belief in the Alpha and strong ties like blood or love will keep him within any social structure.

Indiana Jones is often classified as the Seeker Archetype because he’s an explorer—but is he?  Or is he a Destroyer?

the Delta Hero Archetype~~the Leader who Unifies the Community

Ruled by compassion for all, the Delta hero archetype is a necessary member of any social structure.  Looking through other people’s eyes is necessary when planning the future of any society.

However, the Delta can be stymied by that very compassion.  Compassion may create an inability to take the necessary merciless steps to root out weeds.  Weeds take nourishment from the beneficial plants.  Eventually, society’s weeds will choke out the beneficial.

These Delta Heroes with great plans can get nothing done when their Seconds-in-Command are Gamma-Destroyers who have no loyalty to them. 

Society will often replace the Delta with a dogmatic Alpha Dog / Ruler.  They want someone who can accomplish goals.  Then society will protest the lack of compassion displayed by the elected Tyrant Alpha.

The Delta Hero Archetype must constantly ask if s/he is allowing evil to flourish because of kindness and compassion. 

Shyamalan's The Village
In The Village, Elder Walker desires Alice Hunt but will not reach for her because he is honor-bound to his wife.

This is the very question that needed to be asked by Elder Walker in The Village, a film by M. Night Shyamalan.  Elder Walker was played by William Hurt in an understated performance that showed his compassion and his difficulty with being in the leadership role.

As Delta Hero, Elder Walker’s angst is clear.  He struggles with personal desires that are in conflict with his honor and his position.

Types of Deltas

The positive form of the Delta~

  • Has great plans that will benefit many in society.
  • Will resist personal desires and needs to fulfill his leadership role.
  • Must find a way to temper idealistic compassion with ruthless practicality.

The negative form of the Delta~

  • Is often characterized as a Wuss.
  • May fall prey to a martyr complex.
  • Can become so caught up in plans that s/he ignores the steps necessary to fulfill those plans.

 The Jungian equivalent of this hero archetype is the Caregiver, which many have re-named Protector/Defender.

As humanity struggles, Dale in the Walking Dead constantly works to keep the survivors humane.

This is Oskar Schindler, motivated by generosity and unselfishness.  Community is the caregiving Delta’s primary thought.  This is often to his detriment.  He will sacrifice himself to the group.

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is another example of the caregiving Defender.

In The Walking Dead, RV-owning Dale represents the Delta leader.  He truly wanted to protect the group.  At one point he argued for someone’s life.  The proof was evident that that someone would be detrimental to the group’s survival, yet still Dale argued.

Team Roles

A quick look at these four heroic leaders can be seen through the system of Team Roles.

Team Role Quick Definition Positive Form Negative Form Jung’s Hero Archetype
Leader Goal-Setter Alpha Alpha Dog Ruler
Follower Fulfiller Beta Mutineer Seeker
Advocate Questioner Gamma Nihilist Destroyer
Unifier Conflict-Resolver Delta Wuss Protector

 

Jung has other archetypes that we would want to consider as heroic—yet they aren’t.

Warrior.  Creator.  Magician.  Sage.

And check out this blogger who has over 50 character archetypes to include in your story: http://jillwilliamson.com/teenage-authors/jills-list-of-character-archetypes/

However, as a purist, I’ll stick to Jung’s list.

Next

His Unheroic Heroes will be our next look at Character Archetypes.

And Coming Up is a two-part focus on Strong Women and their archetypal journey.

~~M. A. Lee

Oh, those Men :: the Hero Archetype, part 1

“One of the hardest things to do in writing is create characters that readers will care about, that will make them have to read on.”

~ Noah Lukeman

In the first two blogs of this year, we introduced the importance of archetype as well as its background.  We begin our survey with the all-important Hero Archetype.

Character Archetype is our opportunity to reveal our hero(ine)
in his/her untransformed life.

How do we know who our protagonist is?  As writers, the first step in developing protagonists may be basic description and what our character will be and do.  Our second step is to determine more deeply how our character will be and do.  The how of our Hero Archetype will drive our story.

Carl Jung listed 12 Archetypal Characters, all of whom serve will for developing our various characters in our book.  Here’s the list again:

Heroes of all Archetypes in The Walking Dead
  1. Innocent
  2. Orphan
  3. Warrior
  4. Protector (caregiver)
  5. Creator
  6. Destroyer (rebel)
  7. Seeker (explorer)
  8. Lover
  9. Ruler
  10. Sage
  11. Magician
  12. Fool (jester)

Something in us looks for the central lead to be taken by the Warrior or the Rebel or the Seeker.  Others are drawn to the Ruler or Protector or Sage.  Yet the true hero archetype can be any one of those 12.

I can run a description list for each of these characters.  Dry and boooooorrrrrrrinnnnnng.

Let’s try this:  The Walking Dead.

Yes, I am suggesting the cult phenomenon zombie TV series and comic book for character development and a complete-r understanding of the hero archetype.  

Other films can also give us clarity in understanding hero archetypes.

By the time we enter Season 2 of WDead, the writers have presented four different types of Heroic Men–Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, sometimes in two antithetical forms.

Alpha = the true leader

The Alpha hero archetype is divided into the True Alpha and the Alpha Dog.

Pure Alpha :: Aragorn in The Two Towers and Return of the King

In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Aragorn doesn’t truly become an Alpha until The Two Towers.  Boromir, from the first book, is a great example of the Alpha Dog.

The Alpha~

  • Leads through encouragement, example, and explanation.
  • Helps people understand their job, the goal, and the reason for the goal.

The Alpha Dog~

  • Is dominant.
  • Seeks control of any situation.
  • Is rigid in seeking order from chaos.

Jung’s RULER has traits of the Alpha Dog who drives through intimidation, manipulation, and outright pain (physical, emotional, and intellectual).

In Walking Dead, this is the character of Shane, best friend of the protagonist Rick.  Because Shane wants Rick’s wife, he subsumes his Alpha traits to assist Rick.

Beta = the understated leader who doesn’t need to lead

The Beta hero archetype is willing (but not content) to follow a good Alpha, but he will lead a mutiny against an Alpha Dog (Tyrannical Ruler).

This Hero Archetype is divided into the basic Beta and the Yes-Man.

More angst develops from the Beta.  He doesn’t necessarily thrive in leadership roles unless no other leader is practicable.

Many British heroes in historical dramas and RomComs are Betas.

Beta British Heroes have more angst-potential.
  • Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars in the 2008 miniseries Sense & Sensibility is an excellent example of a Beta who leads. He cannot be forced into a role;  he will choose duty and responsibility over personal happiness.  When leadership and responsibility fall in with his personal desires, then you have a truly happy man.
  • Darcy (Colin Firth) in Pride and Prejudice is another example of a British Beta hero.

Jung’s SEEKER has elements of the Beta hero.

  1. Independent
  2. Searches for what is better

    The Woman between the Two Friends: Beta on the left, Alpha on the Right: Notice the Stances of B and A Reflect their Archetypes
  3. Does not need support from others but often receives it when the goal is inspirational.

In WDead, the protagonist Rick is a Beta.  Much of his angst occurs because he recognizes his friend Shane is a better leader, but Shane won’t step up.

Shane won’t risk alienating Rick (or Lori, Rick’s wife).  He intuitively understands that Rick will mutiny if he thinks Shane is leading the survivors astray, and his desire for Lori forces him to remain close.

Rick’s additional angst relates to the Jungian’s Seeker’s attempt to find the perfect solution, and the WDead writers have placed him in a situation that has no perfect solution.

Coming Next

Our next blog is Feb. 10 and will discuss the Gamma and the Delta, the two other types of leaders.  For WDead fans, this is Daryl (Jung’s Destroyer / Rebel) and Dale (Jung’s Caregiver without the strong Protector element).

Join us as we take a Part 2 look at “Oh, Men!”

~~M. A. Lee

“The art of writing cannot be taught, but the craft of writing can.  No one can teach you how to tap inspiration, how to gain vision and sensibility but you can be taught to write lucidly.”

~~ Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages

Archetypes invaded the writing world decades ago, but new writers–and experienced ones needing a refresher–should add these building blocks to their tool kits, just as an artist has tubes of oil in the paint satchel and a chef has ingredients in the pantry.

Explorers will find multiple versions of archetype charts on Pinterest as well as numerous blogs.  All of that information is bequeathed to us by four men.

Most Recent & Most Accessible Work on Archetype

Christopher Vogler and The Writer’s Journey:  Mythic Structure for Writers found here.

Vogler, for those who have never heard of him, once wrote a very famous memo to a Disney executive that changed the film industry’s view of story.  This book is still available and is a fast read.  Vogler lectures on story structure, so notes and video clips are all over the internet.

This book stays on my reference shelf while others have come and gone.  It is clear and concise, so basic that I must admit it is incomplete.  However, it remains a good starting point.  It is Vogler’s work, simplified, that we will work from.

Vogler is working off the ideas of our second man:

Powerful & Blissfully Erudite on Archetypes

Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, first presented in his book The Hero with a 1,000 Faces found here.

Campbell’s Keys

Campbell has no PhD attached to his name;  he is the perfect example of brilliance not

needing a degree of title.

In a simple little chapter called “The Keys”, he sets forth the workings of his archetypal journey.

Campbell’s fully developed monomyth (a single pattern = archetype) presents 17 Stages for the Hero which Vogler reduces to 12 Stages of the Archetypal Journey.

This is very much like those Pinterest boards pointing out 15 (or 17) steps of the protagonist in resolving the trials of Harry Potter or Tolkien’s heroes and so on.

Campbell benefitted from the pivotal work of two men:

The Giant Mind that Developed Archetypes

Without Carl Jung, we would not have archetypes.  While he began as a student of Sigmund Freud, he disagreed with the emphasis on libido as a driving force.

(Even Freud eventually and most famously said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”) 

Jung’s work crosses over several volumes.  One of them is Man and his Symbols found here.

The Seminal Text that Came before Archetypes

Both Campbell and Jung had to know the 1890 work of Sir James George Frazer The Golden Bough (which once I tried to read.  He will be the least accessible of these four minds.).

The Bough compares as it compiles myths and religious stories from across all cultures.  Such a wide gathering of information allows the patterns that are archetypes to be recognized.  The Bough can be found here.

This work must have enabled Campbell to find the commonalities that led to his ground-breaking theory of the monomyth.  

The Hero and his Journey

Alfred Smedburg’s 1912 “Bland tomtar och troll”

The hero’s (and heroine’s) journey creates an individual that is separate from the group identity.  As Jung states in Psychological Types, “the development of the psychological individual [is] a being distinct from the general, collective psychological”.

Through archetype, our protagonist becomes strong as 1] s/he stands away from the group and 2] determines a personal desire and path to achieve it.  3] He must face monsters, both external and 4] internal, and 5] overcome the darkness to reach his desire–6] which may have changed as he matured on his path.

So, how do we separate our protagonist—and other primary characters—from the group?

Next Blog, Jan. 20: 4 Types of Men Leaders :: Oh, Those Men!

I’m looking forward to this one–not dry at all!

~~M. A. Lee