In the same way that there are only 8 notes, every story we love follows a pattern. Whether we are watching Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast, or The Hobbit, there is always a recurring theme.
The archetype, is Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth... and it buries down deep into our psyches. Our hero has a problem, he receives help from a wise mentor, faces an obstacle and he is eventually transformed.
The same story evolves when we watch the iPhone Christmas Commercial. The aloof teen is our hero. His weekend with the relatives is transformed when he uses the iPhone to create a tear-jerking family memory montage movie.
I love revealing this insight to businesses. I am being called on with increasing frequency to conduct workshops to explain how this works, guiding clients through the step-by-step process of writing stories, and transforming the way they tell their stories.
How powerful is the Monomyth?
Last week, I was looking for a truly remarkable example to use in my slide presentation, and I came across this in my own portfolio:
Decades ago, before I learned about Joseph Campbell, I was asked to write a story for a client about how they were using their filler metals in Chicago’s cold brutal temperatures. One of the places this filler metal was being used just happened to by Comiskey Park. Instinctively, I began writing the story about the baseball stadium, and the memories it holds — positioning the filler metal as the “magic tool” that made construction possible in the cold Chicago winds. Just like the Monomyth.
Even welding, under the monomyth archetype becomes dramatic, insightful and memorable….
The story, appeared in The Welding Journal, the cream of the crop of publications for my client.
The story was published years before the internet was available for common use — but still I began searching online to see if there was a digital copy of the article. I actually did find one: the story is now in a college text book. The credit goes to the magazine — and because they paid me $100 back then, I surrendered all the rights. So, my name doesn’t appear in this version. And today, that book is still available, and costs a mere $217.
Great stories are timeless stories, and irresistible.