The Ancient Art of Storytelling
My guess is that storytelling has been around for a very long time, perhaps just about as long as the world’s oldest profession. Who knows the first story ever told may be directly located to the practice of the first profession. Anyway, stories are very old, as exemplified by the pictured mural of Adam and Eve, one of the oldest stories in the bible. However, it is most likely storytelling predates some of the oldest biblical tales, for I’m sure that the ancient hunters and gathering had lots to say around the campfire at night.
Today I’m stuck in Santa Fe, NM waiting for a bus, so I thought I would spend the day browsing the library. While doing so, I came across a book on screenplays written by a man named Wells Root and published in 1979. Thumbing through the book I was amazed as to how relevant the written passages were, even though, the most recently mentioned movie was the Midnight Cowboy, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. One of the chapters was titled, “There’s No Such Thing As An Original Movie’ and this, has now become the inspiration for this post. According to Mr. Root, there was a college professor who bet his students that they could not find a truly original screenplay or movie. Supposedly, the teacher never had to pay up on his challenge.
Is Aristotle Still Important?
Aristotle and his three acts was in important in 1979 and is still important today. And thanks to a popular little book about screenwritng, called Save the Cat, Aristotle actually may be making a comeback among writers and storytellers. And somehow recent trends show that the three act formula first put forth by Aristotle way back when and perfected by Hollywood late in the 20th century is just as strong as ever. Furthermore, American movies have become so rigid in their structure that more experimentation and breakaways from the magic formula may be in order.
36 Types of Stories
Since Wells Root was co-screenwriters for one of my favorite western comedies, Texas Across the River, I delved into his book as best I could. One of the more interesting ideas he espoused was the concept that stories had be broken down into 36 different types. This idea is nothing new, it’s just that a concrete number has not often assigned to the varieties of tall tales that a screenwriter may draw from. Even Wikipedia has devoted a page to the theory of story classification…… So there you go….that’s what I learned at the library today.