Month: May 2015

The depths

We had some intense discussions about a variety of psychology resources for storytellers. It shall be noted that we did not all agree on these issues.

  • Screenwriting with Jungian Archetypes and Symbolism Brief intro from a fan of archetypes in storytelling.
  • How to Write Better Hero and Villains: Archetypes  The author says: Archetypes are the core character models of storytelling, found in nearly all books. The famous psychologist Carl Jung is known for his work on archetypes, and he also developed a personality typology that sheds light on how humans approach life and do what they do.
  • C.G. JUNG — IN THE HEART OF DARKNESS by Michael Ortiz Hill. This is an essay about Jung’s writing about his time in Africa. The author says: Throughout Jung’s memoirs, one is impressed by the subtlety and complexity of his mind and the depth of his psychological insight – except when he writes about “the others.” (Emphasis mine.)
  • The Same Difference by Suman Fernando. The author says: Racism is not dead. It is deeply embedded in Western culture – so deeply that few are aware, for example, how far both Freud and Jung integrated it into Western psychological theories. They were, of course, only reflecting commonly-held views of the time.
  • Why I Don’t Like Joseph Campbell The author says: Any attempt to define the universal story of myth will end up defining the author’s own personal bias.  

Jung via Joseph Campbell via Christopher Vogler have had a deep influence on how we think about story. Examining the underlying assumptions they made about the human experience is therefore necessary. And much as I love all of these dudes, well, they projected the Western view in a manner that maybe kinda sorta totally obliterates even the mere possibility of others.

No, I take it back; somewhere in The Writer’s Journey Vogler states (paraphrasing here) that the various symbols and story features might mean something different in a non-Western cultural milieu. But Jung and Campbell thought they were explicating universal aspects of the human mind.

They probably weren’t.



Lie by Caroline Bock
Sept. 2011, St. Martin’s/Griffin

Recommend for readers looking for an answer for “How does it happen?” will find a portrait of a community that nurtures the conditions for murderous hate crimes. A community that is, in fact, completely ordinary. It isn’t the murder itself that the community struggles with. It’s that the culprit is caught and held accountable; the attack would not have shaken this community if no one had been arrested.

Diverse content: Carmen assigned this book because (I imagine) it deals with a hate crime. Most of the POV characters are white, but one of the victims and his mother do have a number of chapters, and they are El Salvadoran immigrants. SPOILER ALERT the crime is ultimately committed due to homophobia, though there aren’t any out gay characters.

Study this for the use of multiple POVs. There are so many POVs in LIE because we need all of them to clearly see that the whole community is culpable. Every white person ignores the racism until it reaches its conclusion in the arrest of a golden-boy for murder. We generally like to think in terms of the villain as being extraordinary; we like to personify evil into one or a few characters. They are different from us enough that we do not feel implicated in their crimes. Here, it’s the entire web of community that is to blame, that is racist (either actively or apathetically). Bock succeeds in showing that, but it is a grim read. It is painfully realistic.



Freakboy, Kristin Elizabeth Clark’s debut YA novel, at first looks heftier than most, but that is because most of its 427 pages are filled with dramatic and effective white space. Written in verse, this novel about coping with gender identity has a strong story line.

Recommend for readers of novels-in-verse, anyone dealing with or curious about non-conforming gender issues. Readers who love stories with strong mentors will find the relationship with Angel compelling.

Diverse content: The protagonist is gender fluid and confused by a world that insists on everyone choosing a definite gender identity. The mentor Angel is a transwoman who has gone through hard times and now thrives with work she loves and boyfriend her loves her. The protagonist’s girlfriend isn’t particularly girly. (The author, however, is not gender-fluid.)

Study this for: Writing a verse novel in multiple voices. Take a look at the attempt to use font style to indicate that the reading is in a different character. (I may be a little font-blind, because it didn’t help me.)

On Diversity in YA: 5 things Kristin Elizabeth Clark learned while writing Freakboy

Say What You Will

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Recommend this for teens who like a good romance, winning characters and plenty of romantic obstacles. Another theme is friendship and the struggle to find new friends. The writing is smart and funny, and so are the characters. (There is sexual content, fyi.)

Diverse content: The two teen lovers are disabled in different ways. Matthew is OCD and Amy has cerebral palsy, but Amy’s overprotective mother is the biggest obstacle. A secondary character, Sanjay, is of Indian descent.

Study this for well-written, complex and compelling teen characters. This is an un-romanticized rendering of teens dealing with disability in a world not as welcoming as it should be. So study this for an un-romanticized romance.