Thursday afternoon I had the great privilege of participating in a writer’s workshop presented by Athanatos Christian Ministries. The whole endeavor was very encouraging for me and I learned many things. In the afternoon I made my presentation about the hooks which make the story interesting. Part of what it addressed was the three basic stories. One of the participants asked I could make those three available in written form: so, here it is!
Story One: The Warrior
The warrior story is so common that it needs little explanation. Indeed, it might be the oldest form as it is exemplified in The Iliad. In most of western culture the King Arthur story is classic backdrop—knights running off to do battle. The warrior story has a subset of rescue drama—rescuing the damsel in distress. In many stories today the rescue story has blended completely into the warrior story as a patriotic tale where the warrior, whether male or female, is fighting to save or protect the nation (female persona).
Story Two: The Sacrifice
The sacrificial story is one which believers in Christ immediately identify with. It is the story of the person who gives his or her life so that other people might live. Because of this connection to Christ the sacrifice story often has religious or metaphysical aspects which propel reader interest. The best example of this is Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He gives himself up willingly so that others might benefit. The sacrifice story, though, does not have to involve death explicitly for the sacrifice could be time, relational, or monetary. Jane Austen books tend to emphasize this concept.
Story Three: The Journey
In American culture this has turned into the “Road Trip” motif, but it is a highly effective story. The classic example is, to go back to Homer, The Odyssey. Movement from one place to another always captivates an audience. There are subsets to the journey story as well. These include the love story, the coming of age story, and personal growth story. A good example of this is the Harry Potter character. The story is a journey, but it is the journey of the boy Harry becoming the man Harry and realizing his destiny. That is what makes it compelling. Wizards, witches, good and bad have all been done before, but Rowling hit upon a compelling image of this boys coming of age story mixed up in all of that.
The best stories will find a way to maximize all three of these stories by weaving them through the narrative. Consider Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In so many ways Frodo embodies all of these stories within his one character. He is waging a war although he is not the primary combatant, he is making sacrifice, and the journey motif from one place to another is the basic plotline of the story. The trick is combing these instinctive and well-known stories into tales with characters and situations that do not seem forced or artificial.