The Magic of the War Within
“We know that the wildest and most moving dramas are played not in the theatre but in the hearts of ordinary men and women who pass by without exciting attention, and who betray to the world nothing of the conflicts that rage within them except possibly by a nervous breakdown…
…What is so difficult for the layman to grasp is the fact that in most cases the patients themselves have no suspicion whatever of the internecine war raging in their unconscious. If we remember that there are many people who understand nothing at all about themselves, we shall be less surprised at the realization that there are also people who are utterly unaware of their actual conflicts.” – C. G. Jung
One of the most intriguing problems I have come across in reading screenplays is when the writer reveals the conflict of his story at the very end. Most of the screenplay would be filled with what we think to be conflicts in our daily lives, but none that has the power to shake our beings to our core. We come to a crossroads in our work or love life, we are torn between what would seem to an outsider two equally mundane choices… Frankly, who cares! Life is tough, we all face difficult choices every day. There is a reason why we call most of day-to-day life ‘ordinary’. Interestingly though, I don’t believe any of the protagonists of these ‘ordinary’ lives are themselves ordinary. So, there must be something else in there somewhere.
Reading other people’s stories sometimes makes me think: the writer of this ‘ordinary’ construct of imagination, meaning the true protagonist of his story, is buried under layers and layers of dull events and his heart is waiting impatiently to rear its head through the tiniest crack between the lines. Sometimes this glimpse of light is manifested in one sentence in a piece of dialogue, sometimes it is the author’s description of a look the character gives at a significant moment in the story, sometimes it is merely the wardrobe the writer has chosen for his character…
Often enough, any writer who is genuinely and passionately interested in creating a character and delivering a story through that character –but hasn’t quite mastered the skills to tell the story their heart truly desires to tell– has what you might call a Freudian slip somewhere in the story. Sadly, this may have nothing to do with the story told, but gives me the hope that the writer has something non-ordinary to tell!
When I catch a glimpse of these little cracks in a story, I am so inspired to say ‘but this, this is what you are really trying to tell, so why not tell me that story.’ Everyone who is drawn to telling stories has a deep down knowledge of how to tell them. But only if it is the story, they will succeed.
Why do these cracks or slips often appear toward the end of screenplays, typically in the very final scene? Perhaps the ‘true’ story has such an impact in the writer’s heart that it is easy to assume this force-of-nature-moment-in-disguise will only find its worth in the all-important finale. Or, may be that if the writer begins his ‘true’ story where he has finished his ‘ordinary’ story, he may be uncovering the roots of his Freudian slip. And who wants that?
I personally want that –in theory– for my own stories, but the practice keeps me at bay. It is certainly scary waters for most of us to dive into and takes a lot more than one may think to not drown in it. I do believe in this hidden gem in everyone who sits down to write and feel very strongly that only the writers who dig down deep enough will move across the threshold from being ‘ordinary’ writers to ‘true’ storytellers.
In creating ‘Magic of Story’ my aim is to help uncover these hidden gems and bring out the real stories, real characters, real moments with insight and inspiration. Here’s to the ‘internecine war raging in our unconscious’! May it shine through and light our way.