Story Strands — How To Merge Them

Story strands in Braveheart
William Wallace perfectly merges the story strands in Braveheart


The outer and inner Journeys comprise the two most important strands of a story, which is another way of saying that they relate how the hero acts in the world, and why.

The outer journey, we are reminded, recounts, beat-by-beat, the external events of the Hero struggling against mounting obstacles to achieve the visible goal of the story—preventing the bomb from going off, winning the race, preventing a robbery, and so on. 

The inner journey, by contrast, is the internal path the Hero takes to enlightenment as he initiates or reacts to the outer journey’s challenges, surprises, and setbacks.

“The pivot points merge the story strands, the outer and inner events of the tale, into single actions.”

Lagos Egri, one of the most lucid teachers on the craft of dramatic writing, explains that the inner journey is the “why” to the outer journey’s “what”. In short, the turning points, including your midpoint, describe events that cause the Hero to react in a way that is in keeping with his evolving inner state.

Is it preferable to let the inner state, or, journey, trigger the outer event, or should it be the other way around? There is probably no definitive answer to that question—either will do, as long as both through-lines are tightly interwoven.

In Rob Roy, Liam Neeson’s character accepts his wife’s unborn child—a result of her being raped by an Englishman, because of who he is: a man of immense conviction and inner strength. He manages to kill the fop, an expert English swordsman, despite his being defeated in the actual sword fight, because of this inner strength and conviction.

In Breaveheart, William Wallace accepts his knighthood at the midpoint of the story. This motivates him to move from being an isolationist who merely wants to be left alone to farm with his family, to a national leader who takes up arms against the English. The ceremony is a perfect fusion of an outer and inner event—as a knight he now has a moral obligation to fight for those who fall under his protection. 

Summary

The pivot points are the perfect place for the story strands to merge and ensure that the “why” explains the “what” in the story.

2 thoughts on “Story Strands — How To Merge Them

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Part of what makes a character believable and relatable is the fact that they don’t have the luxury of choice. It is often the cause that the exterior event throws the hero into desperate situation and forces them to make a decision. Walter White is given less then two years to live , he needs to make a decision a. Wait for the cancer to kill him thus leaving his family with nothing or b. use his knowledge of chemistry to secure the financial future of his family . William Wallace wants to live a simple life raising a family on a farm however when the English murder his wife this does not become a option.

    In short : If your hero is backed into a corner you as the writer have the power – are you going to let Wallace / Walt roll up in a ball and die or are you going to make them roll with the punches and get down to business.

    Reply
    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      True, Gerhard, but in Walter White’s case though, he chooses to continue cooking when he could have walked away, thus truly ‘breaking bad’.

      Reply

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