The Creative Storymaking Process

by James Bonnet

To create something means to bring something forth, to bring something into being, to fashion or produce something that didn’t previously exist. In this case a great story, which is to say – a great novel, true story or story film. The story film is unique in that it is a collaborative effort and is being created by a screenwriter and director or a filmwright – a primary creative artist, like Walt Disney or Steven Spielberg, who sits at the top of the pyramid and oversees and directs all of the other creative artists on the film, including the screenwriter and director.

Earlier I talked about how the creative unconscious self participated in the creative storymaking process and secretly helped the bard or individual author to transform a true or fictional incident that was worth repeating into a story that contained the powerful hidden secrets of life. Now I will show you how, armed with a fluency in the language of metaphor and a sophisticated story model like the golden paradigm, you can enter into a partnership with the creative unconscious self and use the creative process to construct great stories that will entertain and enrich those who experience them.

The key to all of this is our feelings. Feelings are at the threshold between the two worlds. And are without a doubt a communication from our creative unconscious selves to our conscious selves. While playing with your creative ideas and making creative decisions, the positive and negative intuitive feelings you are experiencing are important messages from your creative unconscious self. If you learn how to read these feelings, then playing with your creative ideas becomes a direct means of contact. Every experience of feeling is an attempt to bring unconscious content and influence to consciousness. Getting in touch with your feelings is getting in touch with your creative unconscious self. Getting in touch with your creative unconscious self through your feelings is the heart and soul of the creative storymaking process.

Also important to this creative storymaking process are our archetypal feelingsArchetypal feelings are feelings like love, compassion, guilt, sympathy, empathy, greed, attraction, fear, anxiety, ecstasy, loathing, pain, hatred, lust, anger, rapture, doubt, to name just a few. And these are feelings that motivate and influence our behavior and can be traced back to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual archetypes. These archetypal feelings can, like the positive and negative intuitive feelings, help you create, develop and fine tune the great characters and intriguing human dilemmas you want in your story.

Four other important resources participate in this collaboration: your imagination, your technique, your knowledge and your experience.

Your imagination is the “image” making function. It is the staging area, the place where creative activity takes place, and it is the process that transforms the raw energy streaming from the creative unconscious into ideas, visual images and story metaphors that can be recognized, processed and managed by our creative conscious minds. And is, in fact, the place where the creative unconscious and creative conscious minds meet and collaborate. The process functions freely and automatically and is the forge where our conscious minds can create new images and ideas by combining previous experiences.

Technique is the conscious function, the method of working which helps you achieve the desired result. The imagination brings the raw, creative unconscious material, plus the stored memories of real or imaginary things, to the surface and the conscious technique helps to fashion that raw material into powerful metaphors that contain the hidden truth. The curious tendencies of the mind, mentioned in the fourth chapter of my book, are the artistic tools that help to recombine and shape that raw clay into new creative ideas.

The knowledge is the special understanding you possess of your art. It’s what you know about story. It’s what you need to know to become a master storymaker. The special knowledge I teach about story is the Golden Paradigm, our story model, which also happens to be our model of the creative unconscious self, which is to say, the source of our creativity. In fact, the hidden story structures that were used to create the Golden Paradigm are the same story structures teased into the great stories by the creative unconscious self. Which means that using the Golden Paradigm as a reference, while storymaking, can greatly enhance your ability to successfully communicate with the creative unconscious using your intuitive and archetypal feelings. Without this, or some other special knowledge, as a  point of reference, it is difficult to get effective unconscious cooperation and support. And without unconscious cooperation and support, you can’t get the hidden story structures programmed into your stories and your stories won’t have any real power or meaning. The better your story model, the better your story because it will help you access more of this vital information.

As for experience – there is just no substitute for it. The more you work with these creative storymaking processes, the better your stories will become. I read about a study of up-and-coming young violinists in German music schools in which it was reported that the only difference between the young players who were considered great and those who were considered prodigies or virtuosi was the number of hours they practiced. The ones who had practiced the most were the ones who, up until that time, had been considered the most gifted and talented. And in the case of story, the rewards to be gained from such a dedicated effort are truly tremendous and worthwhile.

Now let’s talk about the storymaking process. What is the first step? The first step is a fascination and an inspiration. The process begins with a fascination – an idea or visual image that has strong feelings attached to it and inspires you to create a story.  The feelings connected to that fascination establishes contact with your creative unconscious self. The stronger the feelings, the stronger the contact. So you want to explore the things in life that really fascinate you – and play with a lot of different possibilities until you find something that really works for you.

J. K Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, said in an interview that she was riding on a train when the image of the boy, Harry Potter, came to her full blown, including the lightning scar on his forehead. It struck her like a revelation but that’s all she saw. Everything else she had to work out on her own.

When you find something that fascinates you like that, then that becomes your inspiration, your starting point. And what I’m going to ask you to do now is work on something that really fascinates and inspires you – and work with that intriguing idea while I walk you through the entire process step by step. If you select a work-in-progress, just for this exercise, put everything else you know about that story aside, except the original fascination, and we’ll work from there.

Look for the next segment: Six Creative Storymaking Techniqueswithin two weeks. Or come to one of my seminars or retreats and we’ll talk more about it there.

Read the previous article: The Golden Paradigm