The Real Key to Writing Great Screenplays and Novels

by James Bonnet

The real key to writing great screenplays and novels is an understanding of story. And the key to understanding story is a working knowledge of the creative unconscious self, story metaphors, a sophisticated story model, and the character archetypes.

It would not occur to most people to write a classical symphony without any musical education. But just about everyone thinks he can write a screenplay without any training at all. This may have something to do with the fact that a lot of our thinking is in a visual form. We all have little strips of film streaming through our imaginations. It may also have to do with the fact that we all instinctively know a good story when we encounter one. That seems to be part of our hard wiring and has probably been with our species for tens of thousands of years. But knowing a good story and being able to create one are two very different things.

Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Beethoven and Van Gogh could do what they did every time. Why? Because they understood their art forms. That rarely happens in Hollywood or in publishing, if you take into consideration the vast number of story films and novels that are produced. In Hollywood, at any rate, if you study the credits of our top writers and directors, you’ll discover a few outstanding hits and a long list of things you never heard of. And that’s one of my objectives – to help you become a master of the craft by giving you a thorough, step by step working knowledge of all of the principles of the art form.

The creative unconscious self is the source of our creativity and an ultimate creative partner. It goes by a lot of different names but what you call it doesn’t matter, it is the source of all of the higher intelligence and hidden wisdom we possess. It plays a major role in our lives and it plays a major role in storymaking. And because the creative unconscious governs the positive and negative feelings that influence our creative decisions, it participates in the creation of all great stories. A working knowledge of, and a partnership with, your creative unconscious will do wonders for your creativity, your career, and your life – and it will help you make your stories truly great.

The story metaphors are the secret language of great stories. The higher intelligence and hidden wisdom stored in the creative unconscious is in an energy form which is transformed in the imagination into the visual images, characters and structures of story. These metaphors are made of real things that have been taken apart and artistically rearranged in our imaginations to represent these hidden truths. A working knowledge of what these metaphors are and how they are created in the imagination will help you make your stories magical and unique.

Here’s what Shakespeare has to say about this process:

“The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”
Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Golden Paradigm is our sophisticated story model and our model of the creative unconscious self. It was created by the hidden story structures all great stories have in common, and holds the key to cracking the story code, unlocking the secrets of story, and the recovery of our lost and forgotten inner selves. And why is this important to writers and filmmakers? These hidden structures have enormous power, and if you support the things you really want to write with these structures, you can create stories that make a powerful psychological connection and have universal appeal.

The character archetypes are the major players and heroes of story. The male and female heroes and antiheroes are the metaphors that personify the archetypes of the conscious self and all of the other characters in the story are metaphors representing the different archetypes of the creative unconscious self. They become the forces of assistance and resistance – the allies, enemies, and other important characters that confront and surround the hero and the antihero and act as antagonists, mentors or guides. When you master this dimension you will discover another source of real power and be able to create characters that are truly charismatic.

In the next six newsletter articles, which will start to arrive soon, we will begin our journey and explore these four subjects in great detail.

So if you are a serious writer or filmmaker and you want to master the craft of story, and I mean really master it, and do what you want to do in your novels or films every time, throughout your career – come on this journey with me, and I promise you an extraordinary adventure – a true mystery – an enduring love story – and a great new beginning.

In the next online story course article, The Creative Unconscious Self: The Source of our Creativity, I will begin talking about the creative unconscious and the important role it plays in storymaking and in our lives. In the meantime, if you like, you can read the Five Sample Chapters from Stealing Fire which are now posted on my website and will introduce you to the Creative Unconscious and the critical role it has played in the creation of all of great stories – including all of the great myths, legends, fairy tales, critically acclaimed best sellers and box-office successes.