Friday, February 17, 2012

The Power of Myth-Chapter 2

Last post I said that I hadn’t figured out how The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell With Bill Moyers could be useful to fiction writers. In the second chapter I found at least one explanation as it deals with what a myth is and how it was created and adapted through time. Although I don’t agree with his philosophy that, as I understood it, claims that the universal ruler, if there is one, isn’t as important as the bit of that creator inside each of us that unites us, I do recognize his usefulness in creating mythology for our fictional species.
Mythology is how people explained and related to the world around them before they had the time and technology to explain the world scientifically. Deities and mythical creatures helped the ancient people accept any natural disaster that occurred, entertained nomads then farmers around the nightly fires, and the worship rituals gave the people who had to spend all day everyday doing the same job, such as working the fields or caring for the family, that they may not have liked doing something to look forward to. The belief that the world was ruled and judged by unseen eyes provided order as people feared the wrath of a powerful being more than the punishment of a friend or a town. Ceremonies like asking the blessings of a god on planting or harvesting or a birth allowed people to leave the fields and gather together every few weeks or months and see family members and friends that may have moved away.
Mythology is an important part in the development of a culture and helps form the morals and laws of a culture or species. This book tells of what Campbell believes is a single truth that is retold throughout the world in different variations depending on the culture telling it. He believes the truth for Earth is to live in harmony with everyone and everything but the truth of your planet may be one creature that created the world from loneliness or a need for an army to defeat his enemies. I believe that to create a culture you need to decide what the focus is (is the creature a warrior’s culture like the Klingons, a merchant culture like the Ferengi, a culture aimed at watching other species without interfering, or any other type of culture) and decide how the planet created. Once you know those two things you can decide what myths entertained the early nomads or cave dwellers and how those myths progressed to create the current religion/culture.
Even if you have no intent of knowing the entire mythological evolution of the culture you are creating or that one of your characters comes from, you should still have an idea of what the “religion” or focus of society is whether it’s the reputation of a person or family like with the Klingons or money like the Feregis or understanding and peace like the Minbari spiritual caste or family or success or anything else you want your species to aim for and a few cultural

Friday, February 3, 2012

Power Of Myth Review, Part 2

I read the first chapter of "The Power of Myth" this last week and was impressed. Joseph Campbell’s thinking process is very different from the common thought on things that it really does make one think. It is fascinating from a psychology and philosophy perspective but I haven’t seen how it applies to story writing. For a science fiction of fantasy writer it is an interesting way to think about the creation of culture based on myth. That is nearly all I could get out of the first chapter for story writers but other ideas Campbell talks about are interesting to consider.
One of his big discussions with Bill Moyers is on his idea that modern marriage doesn’t work because modern couples look more for physical pleasure than for the spiritual connection of two halves creating one whole and that a family is as much about the relationship between the parents as it is to raising the children. Couples that spend all their time and energy focused on the family as a whole and seeing their children succeed often find that once the children have left home for college or their own careers, the parents no longer have much in common or are comfortable with their spouse, leading to the modern trend of marriages that end after decades of “successful” marriage. Campbell believes that if couples take the time to keep interested in their spouses life outside the family and maintain the emotionally intimate relationship they had when married, there would be fewer divorces and more happy marriages.
One of his quotes that I rather like and that does have to do with writing stories: “The only way you can describe a human being truly is by describing his imperfections…It is the imperfections of life that are lovable.” No one wants to read about a perfect person or society because perfection is boring and predictable. People want to read about someone learning to work with an imperfection instead of hiding it or working against the imperfection. It is our imperfections that make us individual and our imperfections that make life interesting. It’s a good thing to remember when making characters and a great thing to remember as you create your storyline and plot.