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.