Written by John Jarvis
Stage two is the choice of your story’s second Story Element, the Story Category. There are three Story Categories to choose from.
a. Action Category
Stories falling under the ACTION Category are those concerned strictly with plot, in which the characters are there only for the action. They also generally have a happy ending. Most often, works in this Category concentrate on a journey or adventure of the main character, rather than on the character’s psychological or emotional transformation. As a rule, most popular stories use this Category. If you are writing a mystery, western, horror, romance, battle story, or spy story, it is generally best to use this Category. However, if you are writing a story about the spiritual needs of your main character, use either the MYTH or CHARACTER category, regardless of the genre. And if you are trying to make a strong philosophical point, use MYTH.
b. Myth Category
Myth Category stories are about complex characters who are victims of fate. Just to name two examples: ROMEO AND JULIET and TITANIC. But although the characters in an MYTH story have strong inner needs and goals, these desires are frustrated. As such, MYTH stories do not have a happy ending in the ordinary external sense, but have instead a spiritual or philosophical message and always a tragic ending.
c. Character Category
Another classic Category is CHARACTER. This Category differs from ACTION stories in that there is always an inner struggle towards a goal (for example, becoming better adjusted to one’s age, inner need, or environment). Yet CHARACTER stories share one thing in common with ACTION stories: They always have a happy ending.
In order to make the best choice of Category for the story you want to write, keep the following in mind:
1) Determine the purpose of your story. Ask yourself, “What point do I want the story to make?” For although the Story Category stage requires no writing, it virtually determines the purpose of the story. While the great writers may never have consciously asked themselves whether they wanted to write an Action-, Myth- or Character-Category story, their sense of their purpose has always been clear.
2) Look inward and consider adopting the Category that best expresses your story-telling being. Each of us has a unique way of perceiving life. Some of us express ourselves best in the telling of horror stories, others romances or science fiction. Still others, like the Bronte sisters or Tolstoy, wish to speak of life in philosophical terms. Before you can begin writing a good story, therefore, you must “know thyself.”
3) Think of what you see as your story’s primary emphasis. For example, AFRICAN QUEEN, HIGH NOON and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, though outwardly Action-Category stories, belong instead to the Myth- and Character Categories. For the emphasis in African Queen is on relationships, and the emphasis in High Noon and Crime and Punishment is on ethics.
4) Consider that Myth- and Character-Category stories are often the most difficult – and most challenging – to write. Note also, though, that they are often the least watched, for whatever reasons, among today’s viewing audiences. Today, the overwhelming number of mass-market movies and books are of the Action (plot-driven, action-oriented) Category. In general, Action-Category stories are often more trivial, more ﬂeeting, while Myth- and Character-Category stories are often deeper, more inﬂuential, and more provocative. There are, though, numerous outstanding exceptions to that generality – both outstandingly good Action-Category stories and outstandingly bad Myth- and Character-Category stories.
5) Finally (but ultimately, most importantly), realize that the best stories are usually those that express what the author feels strongly about. Ask yourself, “Why am I writing this story?” “What is my purpose for writing this story?” Find the subjects that, with all your heart and soul, you want to write about; and the stories based on those subjects will be your very best stories.
NOTE: Once you’ve decided on your Story Category, you may need to revise your Story Concept. For instance, if you’ve written an Action Concept, but decided to write, say, a Character-Category story, you’ll probably need to re-write your Concept as a Character Concept instead. And if your story is to be of the Myth Category, then you should have a Thought-based Concept.