An Outline of Fiction
In the world as it appears, there is an almost infinite pool of attention swirling around in the minds of potential readers, being drawn hither and thither according to what vacuums are in the vicinity.
On the surface, vacuums seem to be created and filled: if you cannot fill a vacuum for someone, your story won't sell. In the real world, pain, suffering and death are to be avoided, but in successful fiction, they are promoted. All good stories create mystery, tension, moral questions and core vacuums - this is why they are successful.
In the underlying structure of a story that works, all vacuums are created and filled perpetually . Pain and suffering are invitations to the reader, open doors through which he or she is lured.
Reader attention is caught up in the trials and illusions of the surface of the story and fails to recognise the truths of the underlying structure. Superficially, the picture is painted in stories of countless struggles between characters, often with each striving to dominate others; the author invents needs and supplies fulfilment, while avoiding the appearance of doing so. A gripping story is a sea of turbulent attention, in which the reader is tossed and twisted through time.
A story’s task, on this basis, is to shift the attention from the storm-tossed and brutal sea of the surface to the calm waters of fulfilment.
At one end, off stage if you like, the core theme of the story generates powerful waves of fulfilment which transform the pain and suffering of the characters into something else for the reader - at the other end is the antagonist, seeking to introvert attention and to place it upon the ephemeral, the fleeting, the superficial - striving to distract the protagonist's attention, seeking to magnify the emptiness of pain and suffering, working to promote the existential void.
Beneath a story, figures allegorically represent all of this.
In a story, on stage, visible to readers, the seven types of character allegorically represent a spectrum between extremes.
The primary vacuum for attracting the initial attention of the reader is the protagonist of each story. This figure must be drawn to the antagonist in a way which magnifies his or her character flaws, thus drawing in more attention from the reader.
The Old Man figure points the way towards the other end of the spectrum, but in the context of a great struggle with little hope (or the power of the story is reduced).
The Comic Companion continually promotes the fulfilment end of the spectrum.
On the other side of the protagonist is the Female Companion, who is largely composed of an internal void and is therefore often pulled towards the Warrior Companion, himself emerging from darkness, or the Shadow Protagonist, a version of the protagonist who has been drawn closer to the antagonist.
And at the dark end of the spectrum is the Visible Antagonist, the on stage figure who represents and promotes unfulfilled dreams, defeat, loss, emptiness.
Fiction draws reader attention in and then to either end of this spectrum. Epics and Comedies conclude toward the positive end; Tragedies and Ironies terminate towards the negative end. At the end of an Epic, one approaches as closely as possible to fulfilment; at the end of an Irony, one is drawn into the meaningless subjectivity of an empty self.