Music of the Mythospheres
By Richard Farley.
Imagine with me for a moment a universe without form or dimension. Nothing exists. Not even time. Imagine this “nonbeingness” is centered within itself. Now visualize this “dimensionless centeredness” as something like a navel. And fancy that this navel may “nonexist” in consummate contemplation of itself.
And behold, this centered nothingness has a source: a womb of infinite creative potential from which all of existence — substance, form, dimension, space, and time — is about to be born.
Is that too much?, too outlandish?
I submit it is an excellent metaphor for much of human speculation about the underlying profundity of our universe, all the way from our interminable prehistory to the rationalistic ne plus ultra of our postmodernist “new” age.
It is conspicuous that, eons before the first human being made his or her first mark within the caves of the Dordogne River valley, most human contemplation about “the nature of things” is that the material universe is informed by the immaterial, or spiritual, world. “Somethingness” (empirical human experience) flows from the womb of creation (the realm of the spirits and of the gods) through an umbilical cord of convergence.
And likewise, today, cosmologists speak of the “Big Bang,” the currently predominant concept of the origin of our universe in modern science. The concept is that, at the moment time and dimension began (as we know them), all that is now — the (perhaps) 10-dimensional universe — emanated out of an ultimate black hole. And physicists tell us black holes have infinite density, but no dimension. So scientists, too, are saying dimensionality (existence as human beings understand it) originally manifested out of a dimensionless point of convergence between this reality and another.
In this series of articles, Music of the Mythospheres, we will begin at the beginning. And perhaps we will even end at the beginning. In between, we will explore some of the various human ideas about the inherent nature of things: of the universe, of the meaning of human existence, of where we came from, and where we may be going. And we shall do it all with the eyes and the minds and the souls of storytellers on a quest for inspirational fire.
So let us begin.
A Few Introductory Remarks
The title for this series of articles, Music of the Mythospheres, is derived from the notion of the “music of the spheres,” once thought by Pythagoras and later philosophers to be a perfectly harmonious music, inaudible on Earth, and produced by the movement of celestial bodies. Since today, some philosophers speak of the “physiosphere,” of the biosphere, and even of the “noosphere,” perhaps it is only appropriate to speak of the “mythospheres,” which attempt to transcend them all.
But, some may ask, to what purpose do we speak of the mythospheres? How can it help with my own telling of a story?
The answer is both simple and complex. As storytellers, we cannot speak merely to this time period because this is where we are “coming from.” To do so, is to judge the behavior and belief systems of those who have come before us without an acknowledgment of the realities of their lives. To do that, is to miss the whole complexion of human experience.
With that said, however, it would be folly to promise herein the philosophers’ stone of old. The whole of human concepts, experience, and culture is simply too vast. Thus, sometimes we’ll look through a metaphorical microscope, and sometimes we’ll not look at all. Much of vital significance will simply be left out. It is unrealistic to expect anything else.
Instead, throughout this series, like Procrustus — a robber of Attica in Greek legend who forced all those who fell into his hands to fit upon an iron bed — we’ll be cutting and stretching to fit.
As we proceed, limitations of time and space require that the evidence presented for some connotations and conclusions may occasionally be scant. Further, there are many theories and perspectives on history, old and new, and yet a number of disagreements on certain details of bygone eras. Hence, the historicity of some “facts” presented herein may be disputable.
Summarily, if anything discussed should strike a discordant note or whet your curiosity, I encourage you to supplement these essays with your own research and scale the mount to the summit of your own judgment.
And now . . .
. . . listen. Find a place of utmost silence and stop and listen. What do you hear? Are you aware of your own breath?, the rhythm of your heart? What of the interval between each breath and the eternity surrounding each heartbeat? Is each open space a spiritualization of matter? Is each breath, and each beat of your heart, a materialization of spirit? Forget the rush of modern life. Pause. Listen.
And perhaps you will begin to hear the music of the biosphere . . .
Music of the Biosphere, 101: A Feminist Objection to Mythic Structure
Myth, from its beginnings, has been the attempt to explain the unexplainable, or, as Joseph Campbell taught, myths are metaphors for enigmas otherwise beyond human comprehension, comparisons that help us understand, by analogy, some aspect of our own mystery.
So, like Theseus, let us take a firm grip on Ariadne’s thread and begin our exploration of the labyrinth with the dialectic of life. Or, less poetically, let’s examine some of what myth has to say to us about human biology.
Most modern scientists agree that life began with simple, asexual, single-celled organisms that reproduced themselves by mitosis, or “division.” These protists were, in and of themselves, completely integrated. Yet, by the time human beings began to contemplate the world in which they found themselves, a duality between male and female was readily apparent. Did this division between the sexes affect the earliest human perceptions of the cosmos? Yes. The observation of the differences between the sexes and of the necessity and realities of reproductive copulation was one of the most puissant influences on human culture from its genesis and continues to be so today.
Many early myths speak of a “oneness,” a unity beyond everyday human experience. For example, in Vedic cosmology, as well as in the Dogon cosmology of West Africa, the universe is originally an egg that shatters as it expands into time. Or, a more familiar story for many may be the story of Eden. God created Adam, and Adam was one with God. It is only after Adam is “divided” into two sexes — that is, after Eve is created from Adam’s rib — that humanity begins the fall from oneness with God into time and the duality of experience.
This division between male and female must have weighed heavily on the minds of primitive human beings. So much so that all the world’s major surviving mythologies seem to address this basic biological reality of day-to-day human existence. Indeed, most of the major world myths that have survived, thrived, and been codified for the last several thousand years depict, primarily, the male as the hero-adventurer. In contrast, the female is more often depicted as a nurturing mother, a seductive temptress, a sorceress, a wicked step-mother, a faithful lover, or a beautiful prize to be won by the noble virtue and labors of her male hero.
Of course, such observations are perforce imprecise. Nevertheless, these tendencies have understandably caused a number of feminists to condemn some of the world’s major mythic traditions as “male conspiracies,” the purpose of which, they say, is merely to defend a patriarchal status quo. Some feminist writers even insist the major myths simply do not speak to them, either as women or as storytellers.
In an attenuated sense, they are right. One of the raisons d’être of myth has often been to explain the status quo. In a broader sense, however, this feminist interpretation is either disingenuous or profoundly nescient.
Lest we forget, in a healthy, well-functioning society, the ontological milieu is what (for the average person) needs to be explained. The questions folks usually ask are, Why is the world this way? What is my role?, Where do I, and the people around me, fit in?, and What is the meaning of my life? The feminists who proselytize the belief that our major myths do not speak to women could not be more mistaken. Not only do these myths speak to women as women and to women writers as storytellers, but they speak to all of us about our most basic biological realities.
The Devaluation of the Masculine
As we shall see, some of the earliest tendencies of myth — including casting, primarily, the male as the hero-adventurer — are rooted in biology, natural phenomena, and cosmological speculation.
Unless we are to believe that the realities of human biology today are remarkably different from what they were in primitive human cultures, the world’s major myths are not “male conspiracies” but attempts to explain and honor the sociobiological roles of both male and female.
The mythic traditions that have survived and been passed down to us must have contributed to survival. We, and the cultures of which we are a part, all descend from cultures that contributed to their members’ ability to reproduce. While there may have been other traditions, a primitive culture whose myths worked against survival and reproduction would have faded quickly from prehistory. Thus, they could not have handed those traditions down to us.
The earliest human cultures were hunter-gatherer societies. Women foraged. Men hunted. Meat must have been a necessity. Far easier to preserve than roots and berries and such, and richer in certain nutrients, meat would have been a hedge against drought and malnutrition in a very uncertain world.
Someone had to hunt. It had to be the men.
For, after all, long ago there were not many human beings around. Depending on what we collectively decide to call “human,” it took either millions or hundreds of thousands of years for the world’s population to reach 400 million. It’s only been within about the last 150 years that the head-count has reached such breathtaking proportions.
Armed with nothing more than crude spears and stone knives, the earliest humans would have found the hunt far more dangerous than staying home. Relatively few in number and surrounded by predators, parasites, and various misconstrued dangers and diseases, their survival would have meant protecting reproduction. In other words, any culture destined to survive and pass down its traditions through the generations would have had to have consistently maintained a capacity to produce large numbers of children. To do that, they would’ve had to have preserved the fertile wombs. To do otherwise, would have been to risk the culture’s very existence.
It is inherent in human biology that one fertile male can easily impregnate dozens of fertile females, and that after conception, a fetus’ development in the womb takes many months. In early, somewhat underpopulated cultures, these realities would have made the men considerably more expendable than the women.
As an illustration, suppose you are in charge of a primitive tribal culture consisting of five fertile males and twenty fertile females. You have reason to believe there is a threat to the tribe just over the horizon. Knowing death is a genuine possibility, you have to decide whose life you are willing to risk. Though there are only five men, if you are culture-survival smart, you will still choose one of the men. If our hero is mortally wounded, the ability to keep the culture going will not be diminished whatsoever. The four remaining males will still be able to impregnate the twenty females just as effectively. Even one man, assuming he is healthy and fertile, could do it.
However, if you choose a female and she dies, you will lose five percent of your tribal culture’s capacity to reproduce itself. And every time thereafter that you choose a woman to go out and have the “grand adventure,” if she dies, your culture loses another five percent. This is a simple biological reality.
Any early culture that chose to keep the men home and send their women, instead, off on dangerous adventures would have eventually lost its capacity to reproduce itself. Certainly, if the Amazons did ever exist, it is apparent why the mythology of their culture did not survive. We did not, could not, descend from peoples who made nonsurviving decisions.
Pregnancy, Child Development, and the Rigors of the Hunt
There were also the inherent limitations of pregnancy and child development. Feminists who argue that patriarchy was a “male conspiracy” are denying the obvious and willing participation of women throughout the history of culture.
Any primal culture that did not die out would also have had to have been one in which the potentials for childbirth and rearing were guarded to prevent as many unnecessary miscarriages and infant mortalities as possible. Any culture that did not honor the activities of the male hunter as distinct from the activities of the female would not have survived.
Recent research suggests primitive life was probably not, as the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan in 1651, altogether “nasty, brutish, and short.” Those few who lived to be old may have lived almost as long as we do today, and primitive hunter-gatherer cultures may have been the first truly affluent societies. Even so, there is little doubt existence was dangerous. Women did not hunt simply because, a substantial amount of the time, many were young and pregnant, or nurturing a child.
It would have been difficult for a pregnant mother to be as fleet of foot as a young male, and the strenuous nature of the hunt would have caused a much higher miscarriage rate. Additionally, women would have been more necessary in child development. Their breasts would have been the best, and perhaps only, source of nourishment for the very young.
The Male Hormone and Socialization of Young Males
Another reason the man of myth was more often the adventurer was simply that his hormones demanded it.
There is a period during puberty when testosterone creates aggression, rage, and an increased sexual appetite.
Criminality and related aggressive behaviors have always tended predominantly to involve young males. Why? Testosterone. Indeed, the effects of testosterone may account for why some men seem to get violence and sex dangerously confused.
Modern medical practitioners say that some women who have undergone testosterone therapy have complained about an “inability to think about anything else but sex,” and one female Olympic athlete, while taking testosterone, reputedly asked, “How do men stand it? This anger? This constant agitation?”
Now consider that, because of the dangers that faced them, the majority of males in the earliest cultures were probably young men who were, therefore, “jazzed up” on their hormones at all times.
One of the great challenges of culture was (and still is) to get young, “wild” men (under the influence of testosterone) to become faithful, protective, productive, and law-abiding members of the culture. How did early cultures do that? Well, the old must have explained to the young males, just before they came of age and joined the hunt, the nature of the adventure/journey they were about to undertake. They must also have explained the importance of the men’s attachment to the women. Eventually, the biological realities of their lives were almost certainly reflected, through myth, in the perceived realities of the cosmos. It is likely then, that early hunter-gatherer cultures spiritualized the dangers and adventures of the hunt even as some cultures have, ever since, spiritualized the hazards and courage of battle.
So the young male was to become an adventurer because it was his role to find spiritual enlightenment — or a “rebirth” from the proclivities of the potentially dangerous “wildness” induced by his hormones, into a responsible member of the society. The woman was almost certainly mythologized as the center of things, that is, the center of reproduction and, by reflective analogy, the center of the spiritually animated cosmos. Like the ovum, symbolically already at the center of the creative and spiritual forces of the cosmos, the virtuous woman sits and waits for the arrival of her hero. Like the sperm, the virtuous male actively seeks out the adventure and endures every hardship so as to come back to the center of woman, from which he has been “cut off.”
Where does the adventure ultimately lead? Home. Back to woman. Back to the source. A man-child leaves the womb of woman (the source and center) and is literally “cut off.” Then, during or after puberty and its requisite adventures, he comes back to the womb of woman as a lover. Throughout the history of every culture, with, perhaps, the singular exception of our own, this is the adventure all men have been expected to undertake who wished to become “respectable” members of society.
A Storyteller’s Conclusion
Finally, given all these circumstances, how would most women want men’s roles in society to be honored? If a man brought his spear home one day and told the women he was tired of the rigors of the hunt, would the women honor him? If a man said to the women that, in spite of their various states of pregnancy and nursing children, they should nevertheless endure the dangerous adventures, would the women honor him? Or would the men of virtue have been perceived by the women to be those who embraced the risks of the hunt to protect and provide for the women and their children?
And if heroic, adventuresome men were the ones so honored, why should it be surprising to some feminists that women willingly participated in the cultures that led, eventually, to the development of patriarchal deities?
Of course, throughout this article, I have been speaking only of the “virtuous” masculine and feminine roles, and I am, admittedly, painting myth with some very broad strokes.
But these modern, it-shouldn’t-have-had-to-be-that-way, feminist notions that the major mythic traditions are somehow “male conspiracies” devised by insensitive, power-grabbing men, or that they do not speak to women simply because the adventure is usually the man’s, are mistaken.
Considering all that has gone before, the emotions of modern feminists are understandable, but these interpretations are still nonsense. The majority of women, from the beginning, have always been willing co-creators of culture and as much in support of these belief systems as the men. For themselves and their children, it meant a safer and more secure life. And sure, in the postliminary millennia, there were always men who wanted to carry things much too far, but that is the nature of power.
So what can we, the storytellers, conclude? For one, these biological realities can be especially fertile soil for the considerations of science-fiction and fantasy authors who, if they wish to create believable, internally consistent fantasy worlds, must either acknowledge these realities or create a way around them.
For another, feminist storytellers may find it worthwhile to get on with the task of creating something new in culture instead of railing against the necessity of what has gone before. And those who wish to be taken seriously might want to acknowledge that some of the “myths” their sisterhood is creating today fly in the face of basic human biology and experience.
It is only in a technologically insulated and sufficiently populated society that new primary-role definitions for men and women are even cogitable. It is only since the advent of the industrial revolution that technological innovations have given large numbers of men and women the leisure and the opportunity to begin to “unacquaint” themselves with the basic biological realities herein discussed.
From out of the primordial “darkness” of our prehistory, our various cultures inherited a subconscious awareness of male “expendability.” For biological reasons alone, the ensuing historical experience of the “average man on the street” has been to perform the most dangerous work and, through military conscription, to die for causes he couldn’t have cared less about for many thousands of years. Only the feminists who are willing to acknowledge these historical realities deserve to be taken seriously.
For you see, though the heroic male has been exalted throughout most of our myths and histories, his “glory” is the corollary of an equation that began with a devaluation of the Everyman. So, mythospherically speaking, perhaps we could more reasonably argue that it is the ordinary, somewhat-less-than-heroic men, not the feminists, who have the more cogent grounds for complaint.
And that’s the “music of the biosphere, 101.”
— Richard Farley
Through a Glass Darkly
Being and Somethingness
By Gary Kriss.
It was Sartre who made the famous observation that we’re limited by own freedom.
Trust me — that was Sartre the novelist, not Sartre the philosopher, speaking. Those are definitely the words of a man who knew all-too-well that luxuries such as indefinite deadlines usually prove more paralytic than productive. Writers intuitively grasp this existential dilemma – and its attendant angst — and respond by constantly trying to box themselves in, imposing bounds where none exist. (To use the example I just gave, how many of us with a long lead-time for a piece wait until the last minute to write? Put down your hand; it’s a rhetorical question!)
That’s also why writers are receptive to commandments, injunctions that in some way restrict them and force them to confront here-and-now reality. Stone walls don’t only make good neighbors: they make real writers by keeping wannabes from forever wandering in fields of fancy. In other words, writers are liberated by their own confinement. Take any book on creative writing and see how many commandments are listed for writers, working and would-be, to follow. Usually each of these admonitions is followed by a recitation of the dire consequences that await those who dare to deviate. By limiting us in this way, these books promise to free us. By guiding our conduct in this way, these books promise to unlock our potential.
In other words, these books are a lot like The Book.
The Bible is filled with commandments. No matter whether these are couched in law, as in the Old Testament, or in love, as in the New Testament. These mutually exclusive moral mandates are plentiful, absolute and without much wiggle room.
Indeed, the Prophet Isaiah warns in no uncertain terms against either confusion or putting ambiguous gray above basic black and white, proclaiming “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah was certainly no man to trifle with. Imagine what he might had said if he had written “How To Create And Sell Successful Fiction”!
Well, in some ways Isaiah did write that book. Or, at the very least, he was a major contributor to it. So, too, were Micah, Nahum, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Malachi, Mark, Mathew, Luke, John, Paul…well, I think you get the picture.
Over the course of the next few columns, I’ll. be focusing on some basic writing commandments, so basic that they’re generally found in all how-to writing manuals. But all these are latecomers and their divine wisdom designed to keep followers on the straight and narrow path to publishing paradise can be easily and conveniently found in one single source.
So next time you hit your favorite book store, go browsing not in the writing, but in the religion section. Find a nice translation of the Bible that you’re comfortable with and have it ready next month. It’ll be our lantern when we begin viewing the “rules of writing” through a glass darkly.
Genre and Story Type: What is the Difference Between Them?
By John Jarvis.
I’ve had many people ask me that question, “What is the difference between genre and Story Type?” For most writers, especially screenwriters, are very sensitive to genre. But, as you will see, genre and Story Type (Stage 3 of the Jarvis Method) are apples and oranges.
Here is the basic difference: Genre is a kind of story — its basic background — such as Gothic, romance, mystery, suspense, science fiction, etc. Story Type, on the other hand, is a definition of the actions your characters are involved in. For example, the film Gone with the Wind is in the historical romance genre, but it is a Triumphal Victim Story Type. The genre, again, shows the background and gist of Scarlett’s world — how her world is turned upside down — whereas the Story Type shows how she responds to this background. Story Type is, in short, “Master Plots.”
The Jarvis Method does, though, deal with genre, but not within the Story Type stage. Rather, the issue of genre arises particularly in the second component of World Creation (Stage 4): the Extraordinary World. For it is there that the writer details the main character’s World, the backdrop of the story.
Now that you’ve gotten all that straight, I’m going to confuse you again. For there is a place where Story Type and genre often meet, and that is at the level of the Locale Adventure Story Type. In order to discuss that one, however, we must take a slight detour in the world of the Category. (If you are weak in this subject, I discuss it in last year’s June issue of Story and Myth.)
The Locale Adventure Story Type is always in the Action Category. Stories in this Category are plot pieces, and thus their Story Types — especially Locale Adventure — often coalesce with genre. On the other hand, those who write in the Theme Category seldom if ever will find a similarity between Story Type and genre. For this reason, many plot-oriented (Action Category) writers unfortunately never pay much attention to the Theme Category. Again, the difference is between the actions of the main character and the backdrop (and that’s why, of course, Locale Adventure blurs the distinction so much).
One more thing needs to be mentioned. Many teachers refer to each genre as having different beats — a beat system for the romance story, a beat system for the mystery story, etc., etc. The Jarvis Method completely does away with the need to use different beats by assigning to each Story Type a set of content-filled structure steps, or Story Creation Steps (Stage 5). In short, if you are writing, say, a Love Story Type, you automatically use a different structure from that of any other Story Type. These content structure steps are based on the abstract concepts of Joseph Campbell of the Hero’s journey, but, unlike other mythological structure systems, they do not leave the writer with a one-size-fits-all approach.
Each month, the StoryCraft Software system (which incorporates the Jarvis Method) is demonstrated in “Type Casting.” Let me, however, give a mini-demonstration here, with comments, to show how all this works together. To do so, I’ll use two different Categories (Action and Theme), but the same Story Type (Supernatural Transformation). The first example, in the Action Category, is the story Dracula; the second, in the Theme Category, is the story Beauty and the Beast. Note that both are in the same genre (horror), but they are treated differently because of the Category of Story Type.
By the way, before getting under way, let me point out why the Method I’m about to demonstrate is superior: if you were writing strictly in genre, you would use horror story beats — regardless of the basic nature of each story’s premise!
Ok, here we go. The first part of the Jarvis Method is the Story Concept (or premise). In Dracula the Story Concept is, “A Vampire wants to move to London.” This is clearly going to be a plot-driven story and therefore will be in the Action Category because there is no answer, no moral, to the story. But in Beauty and the Beast, the Story Concept is, “Beauty is more than skin deep.” This story, then, belongs in the Theme Category because it does have an answer — a moral (“Beauty is more than skin deep”). Yet both involve a curse with which the main character must deal; therefore both are of the Supernatural Transformation Story Type.
Now let’s look at the structure steps for each. Keep in mind that in these steps I am addressing only the general flow of the story. So, each content step should be used only as a guideline. It is a mistake to follow the steps slavishly; although to get the hang of the Method, it is good practice to do just that.
The structure steps for Dracula are: (1) Two Introductions — Hero, under a curse, the Antagonist, a victim; (2) Hero begging for help; (3) Antagonist warned about Hero; (4) Antagonist going to meet Hero; (5) Antagonist sees Hero for first time; (6) Hero’s attempts to rid himself of curse; (7) Hero’s attempts (cont.); (8) Hero trying to kill Antagonist; (9) Hero escaping death; (10) Antagonist chasing Hero; (11) Major fight between Hero and Antagonist; (12) Death of Hero.
Now, compare this with the structure steps for Beauty and the Beast: Steps 1-8 continue with the same beats found in the Action Category story. But then a change takes place:
(9) Hero letting Antagonist live (curse disappears). Transformation.
(10) Antagonist and Hero going out into Society, but not accepted.
(11) Hero’s last attempt for acceptance (fails).
(12) Antagonist and Hero leaving civilized society.
There’s a lot more to say about this Method, such as how to develop an Action Character and Antagonist vs. how to develop a Theme Character/Antagonist. But that’s another story for another day.
Archetypes in Classic Literature and Recent Cinema
By the editors.
Almost all Puzzle Story Type stories — the closed-mystery detective stories — are in the Action Category. However, once in a while a Puzzle Story comes along in the Theme Category. The number of these stories can be counted on the fingers of one hand and normally are some of the arty films, such as Last Year at Marienbad. In extremely rare instances, however, a Theme Puzzle film becomes popular, and when it does, it normally becomes a classic.
Indeed, it has been said of Citizen Kane that it has made more directors than any other film. (This statement must surely pertain to sound films only. Eisenstein is on record as acknowledging his debt to D.W. Griffith. And the religious portions of Intolerance set C.B. DeMille upon his path to fame. Furthermore, Griffith’s predominance in this country doesn’t even take into account other influential silent films of the 1920’s, from the German and French cinema.) We are here to show you that Citizen Kane has done quite a bit for writers also.
1. The Story Concept.
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
2. The Story Category.
Theme. From its Concept, this can’t be an Action Category story because it has a moral and implies the action of a character.
3. The Story Type.
Puzzle. Writers could, and generally do, use the Excess and Downfall Type to expand upon this Story Concept. In fact, just about any Theme Category will work if structured properly. Using the Puzzle Type, though, is perfect for flashback-structure.
These three preparation steps — Concept, Category and Type — give us the foundation of our story. We now need to create the various elements — the extended premise or World Creation — of our narrative.
4. World Creation.
THE ORDINARY WORLD — The Non-Kane scenes.
These would include the film project room and all the people in the present who later recall Kane. (Note: To the extent that some of the same people also appear later with Kane, they, at that point, are also in the Extraordinary World.)
THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD — The world of Kane.
To develop this world, the writer probably prepared by writing — or at least thinking about — many details, including the environment of young Kane’s childhood in Colorado, his growing up as a very rich kid, his newspaper, his home — especially his last one — and so on. Indeed, it was because the writer did this — even if in his mind — that the story is the classic that it is. Here, by the way, is where the writer builds the story’s chief symbolic link: Rosebud. There are many things that make this story great, but this detail is perhaps the greatest.
THE MAIN CHARACTER, OR HERO — Charles Foster Kane.
Extensive details about 1) The backstory, 2) The Character arc, 3) the inner need of the character, and 4) personality. The answers to why Kane is the person he is so that you, the audience, will root for him. Indeed, the only real flaw in the picture is its overuse of flashback, which breaks the continuity necessary for the main character.
THE HERO’S HELPERS — His friends and acquaintances.
Details about the detective (the reporter), since he tries to solve the puzzle. Also details about the many friends and even lovers of Kane, who later, owing to Kane’s arrogance and egomania, turn away and rejoin the ordinary world.
THE ANTAGONIST — The Puzzle.
In a mystery, the Antagonist is always the mystery/puzzle itself.
THE ANTAGONIST’S HELPERS — None.
5. Story Creation (Structure) Steps
We now come to the doing, the construction of the story itself. So far, we have constructed our story from a brief Concept, put it in a Category for character development, selected its Story Type, and, finally, fleshed out the premise (World Creation). We now have enough information to begin the notes for the structural part of our story. To structure it, we will use Joseph Campbell’s 12 stages of a Hero’s journey; fine tuning this journey with the story’s Category and Type.
Step #1: Hero at home, or site of puzzle to be.
From World-Creation: The mansion of Charles Foster Kane
We are shown last home at night. After a long track shot, we see Kane on his deathbed, where he whispers the puzzle with his dying breath: “Rosebud”.
Step #2: Hero asked to take case, sometimes reluctant, something changes mind.
From World-Creation: The Ordinary World
To anyone familiar with the story (and is there anyone who isn’t?), you know that it is the Hero’s Helper, the Reporter, who is asked.
Note: In most cases, the detective is a helper in a Puzzle Story, as pointed out above. However, as this helper is a detective, he is in a sense, a second hero.
Step #3: Hero meeting helpful eccentric prior to investigation.
From World-Creation: Hero’s helper (Kane’s second wife and the Reporter)
The Hero/Hero’s Helper (the Reporter) talks to the second Mrs. Kane, who won’t talk about that part of her life.
Step #4: Hero preparing for investigation.
From World-Creation: Hero’s helper (The Reporter)
The Reporter phones his boss to let him know the problem with Mrs. Kane. We now come to the point where the Reporter moves into a much larger world, for he will go to some of Kane’s old friends.
Step #5: Hero in Location where puzzle began.
From World-Creation: Hero’s helper (The Everett Slone Character and the Reporter) and the Extraordinary World (Kane’s early manhood)
Everett Slone tells the Reporter about Kane’s early life. We move to one of the many flashbacks to that point in time.
Step #6: Tests of Hero by Antagonist’s Helpers.
From World-Creation: The Hero’s Helper (The Joseph Cotton character)
We now pick up Kane’s life through the eyes of his closest friend, the Joseph Cotton character. We are into the major part of the story (Act II). Here we begin to see how Kane becomes more and more power-mad. But he is still, we feel, able to be redeemed until…
Step #7: Tests of Hero by Antagonist.
From World-Creation: The Hero’s helpers (the Second Mrs. Kane)
When Kane meets this woman, he believes himself to so invincible as to get away with adultery. When this destroyed his marriage, and political career, he seems to lose it completely. At this point Kane tries to create an opera singer out of the second Mrs. Kane, builds an opera house for her, and drives her to attempt suicide.
Step #8: Hero realizing that he or she is on the wrong trail.
From World-Creation: The Extraordinary World (the opera house)
Kane does discover the truth (the he has been pushing his new wife too much). This is a very short step in this film.
Step #9: Hero discovering truth. Transformation.
From World-Creation: The Extraordinary World (Xanadu)
Kane does experience a transformation at this step. However, instead of making a more positive choice, he selects to retire from the world in a maze of a mansion, called Xanadu. And the truth is that he is a loveless egomaniac with no justification for being. (Kane never brings this truth entirely to light in action or dialogue; indeed, the only clue we have to his discovery is his last word.)
Step #10: Antagonist pursuing Hero.
From World-Creation: The Extraordinary World (Xanadu)
Kane now tries his best to fight this subconscious truth. He arranges a party, and even has more statues and animals brought from Europe.
Step #11: Hero confronting the Antagonist.
Yet the inner truth won’t go away. When even his second wife can’t take any more and leaves him, he throws a fit, then sleepwalks through the giant mirrored halls of Xanadu muttering, “Rosebud.”
Step #12: Puzzle for all.
From World-Creation: The Extraordinary World (Xanadu) and the Helper (The Reporter)
We now come to the most famous part of the picture. The Reporter announces his failure, his party leaves, and the puzzle is solved — for the audience but not the detective (The Reporter). Perhaps the most interesting part of this last scene is not what happens, but how it happens. Wells uses the film medium to tell, visually, the most important part of the story. Almost no sound films have done this since then, the only example these editors can think of being the ending of 2001– A Space Odyssey.