Breaking Rules

Students, sem­i­nar atten­dees, and vis­i­tors to our online writ­ing guide have com­plained that my insis­tence on know­ing (and adher­ing to) tra­di­tion­al sto­ry struc­tures ignores “real art” in favor of pro­duc­tion and pub­li­ca­tion.

You can break the rules after you mas­ter the rules,” I respond. “And then, only break them when you can defend the choice.”

Imagine my frus­tra­tion when a play was reject­ed because it lacked the “jour­ney” of the main char­ac­ter.

When I decid­ed to write a play with­out a com­plete Hero’s jour­ney, it was an inten­tion­al act (pun), a choice to par­o­dy a genre. There are char­ac­ters in myth and leg­end that do not change. They don’t mature. Mocking that notion of the invari­able being seemed promis­ing.

One of the read­ers pro­vid­ing cov­er­age clear­ly didn’t get the joke. The com­ments on the cov­er­age sheet indi­cat­ed the sto­ry need­ed a clear jour­ney and trans­for­ma­tion. Oops. My choice must not have been obvi­ous.

There are two les­son: 1) break­ing the for­mu­la is risky; 2) if the read­er doesn’t know the orig­i­nal, par­o­dy doesn’t work.

The oth­er read­er did like the script and scored it “high­ly rec­om­mend­ed,” but you need to run the gaunt­let to be pro­duced.

Both review­ers liked the dia­logue, the wit, yet only one got the joke. That isn’t good. I’m not sure fol­low­ing the tra­di­tion­al for­mu­la would have helped.

Will I break the rules again? Of course. But I also under­stand the risks.

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Author: C. Scott Wyatt