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.