Have you ever wondered: Why do we love Story so much?
-Anthropologists say it’s wired into our DNA.
-Neuroscientists say a good story gives our brain a nice dopamine dump.
-Psychologists say that story helps us make sense of a confusing world.
And that all may be true. But let me ask you this:
Have you ever lost something, or won something, or been seriously ill? Or taken a special trip? Or found yourself in a dangerous situation? Have you ever wanted something so bad you could taste it? You’ve cried, you’ve laughed, maybe even had your heart broken. Not all in the space of 90 minutes, like a movie, I hope. But each of us is on an adventure, and that adventure is the story of our life. So of course, we love story. Because, we LIVE story.
Every good Story has four key elements:
There’s a Main Character.
The Main Character has a GOAL.
There is OPPOSITION to the Main Character.
There is something at STAKE.
Does your life have these Four Key Story elements? We’ll get to that shortly.
You may remember from our short film Rosie’s Rescue that:
The Main Character is Rosie
Her Goal is to find Curley, the man who saved her life as a child.
That’s her external goal. Her internal goal—what she REALLY needs—is to find herself.
Does she have Opposition? Yes: Her own lack of confidence, and later, the prison warden and Mrs. Dowel.
What are the Stakes? If Rosie fails, she stays in an abusive relationship and never finds out who she really is.
Let’s look at Star Wars, the original 1977 movie:
The Main Character is Luke Skywalker.
His Goal? To save the princess, and later, to destroy the Death Star.
Those are external goals. His internal goal is to become the person he was meant to be—that’s the real journey he’s on.
External goals are more obvious, Internal goals are more private.
He’s got Opposition, all right:
The stakes? Life or death for millions of people across the Galaxy.
Does your life have the Four Key Story Elements?
Obviously, the Main Character is you.
You have a goal, probably several.
Opposition. It may be finances, lack of time, your own tendency to procrastinate. Fear, perhaps. And there may be a person in your life – hopefully not Darth Vader – who’s not 100% on your side.
The Stakes. What happens if you fail? What happens if you succeed? I assume we’re not talking about the possible annihilation of the Galaxy. But your life will play out differently if you… do or don’t move to that new city. Land your dream job… or not. Start a conversation with that person who someday, might fall in love with you.
Again, we love story, because we LIVE story.
There’s one more reason why we love story so much—and this is a biggie.
One of my favorite quotes is by Emmet Fox: “Buried in your heart is a secret wish. Something you hardly dare look at or think about because it seems so far beyond anything that you could ever have, or ever be.”
In a book or a movie, the Main Character has a wish, too—usually their internal goal—but they act on it! They might be afraid, like we are—but they go for it anyway!
And as we read or watch, we become that person. Why is that important? Because there is something in us that says that someday, we too might set out on a such a journey. And from that story, we get inspired, we take courage, we get ideas about solving the riddles of our own life. Story can help with life.
Story Lover’s Log: Tell a great story.
For more on the Four Key Elements, check out Jeffrey Alan Schechter’s book, “My Story Can Beat Up Your Story.”
For more on External versus Internal Goals, see Michael Hauge’s audiobook with Christopher Vogler, “The Hero’s 2 Journeys.”
To watch the award-winning short film Rosie’s Rescue, go to RosiesRescueMovie.com.
-Terry Weston Marsh | Writer and Director
Terry Weston Marsh brings his YA novel "Scourge" to life both as a seasoned storyteller in the world of film and as a physician who dealt with contagious diseases. As a filmmaker, Terry's writings have garnered several regional Emmy nominations. His recent short films ("Rosie's Rescue" and "Red Red Rose") have also netted numerous awards. He was tapped by iconic artist Bob Ross to write a children's TV program ("The Adventures of Elmer & Friends") prior to Bob's untimely passing. Terry and his wife, Tacy, reside in Mooreland, Indiana.