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03/02/2007 - BOOK REVIEW: ARCHETYPES FOR WRITERS - Using the Power of Your Subconcious
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Author: Jennifer Van Bergen
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 1932907254

Where do your characters come from? Who are they? What do they want and why?
In the 3rd week of my Beginning Screenwriting Class at Seattle Central Community College I ask these fundamental questions of my students. And, well, often times they stare back at me, blank faced. They don't really know.
What about the characters in YOUR story? Where do they come from? Who are they? What do they want and why?
Before you start any screenplay, whether it's about talking sheep or space monkeys you need to ask yourself these fundamental questions. "Archetypes for Writers" gets you asking those questions about your characters. And, better yet, it gets you exploring your own mind.
"Archetypes for Writers is an approach to writing that enables writers to discover and use their own, intrinsic character and story archetypes." Writes Jennifer Van Bergen early in the book (page four) and then she goes on to includes six chapters exploring where all this comes from. This is then followed by a handful of chapters than include exercises on how this all works in a practical writer setting.
I had initial problems with this book as the first couple chapters are filled with all sorts of "new agey" type lingo: "Author Self" v. "Core Self," "Universes of Discourse," "Ectypes" and "Isotypes." You can get lost in these pretty quickly (which I did) and it may take a while to claw yourself out. But once you get to the exercises, that is where you master these skills. (Note: The author DOES suggest skipping these first few chapters, if you would like.)
First and foremost, you have to observe people. You have to explore. Go beyond the image to the core. What is it about them? What makes them tick? Your co-worker, the mail carrier, the barista?
Then it is a process of drawing them out. Looking at them from a writer's point of view. In other words, detach yourself. Do not prejudge. Listen. Do not give advice. Listen. Be in the moment.
And, while being in the moment, observe yourself. What is it about you? What are you bringing to the table? What are you bringing to your characters? How do you show and not tell?
Then, from there, it is to the "Universal Drives" - what drives people. What do they want? What drives you? The co-worker, mail carrier, barista?
Other than the beginning chapters, the only other issue I have with this book (and it is a common theme in a lot of my reviews) is when do you put the book down and write? At what point do you put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and explore what it is that makes you (and your characters) tick?
Bottom line: This book goes beyond the nuts and bolts of standard books on screenwriting to a deeper, subconscious level. Allowing the writer to truly explore the world they are creating.

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