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Myth & the 'Now': an Interview

What’s Myth & the ‘Now’ all about?

When I wrote my book How Stories Really Work, I based it on over forty years of research into various kinds of fiction and was confident that I had isolated the basic building block that formed the foundation of all storytelling. Rave reviews from readers of that book over the last three years have shown that I probably succeeded.

But there were still questions to be answered: why did some kinds of stories still resonate with readers more than others? Was there more to the character archetypes that keep popping up in all fiction, from ancient legends to modern day movie blockbusters? Why do some stories just feel ‘wrong’ while others feel ‘right’? So I looked at everything again, from a new angle.

So are readers for this book expected to have read the earlier book?

Not at all, no. But I won’t claim that Myth & the ‘Now’ is an ‘easy read’. It’s challenging on a number of levels, partly because it begins to draw conclusions that go wider than storytelling. It also takes apart some common assumptions not only about stories, but about the culture in which we live, and even the way in which we grow up.

It’s not a long book, though, which is why it’s not very expensive to buy.

What do you mean by ‘common assumptions about stories’?

Well, the world is awash with books about how to write a thrilling tale. One of the things writers will hear a great deal about is the necessity to have ‘conflict’ in any given story, for example. There’s a lot of truth in that, but what is that conflict all about, beneath the surface? I wondered if it would be possible to find out what lay behind the traditional ideas of tension and conflict, and I think I did.

Plus there’s a huge following for books which outline a ‘Hero’s Journey’ in stories, and we see all the time the results of that, with formulaic movies and novels appearing based entirely on that concept. But what is that all about? Is there anything at work behind the scenes of all these hero’s journeys? Myth & the ‘Now’ is a great book if you like to know how things operate out of the view of the reader.

You mentioned the culture in which we live. Can you tell us more about that?

I can, but much of what I would say about that won’t make a huge amount of sense unless you see it in the context of the book. In brief, we are living inside a culture which is based on certain maxims and protocols that, because we are inside them, we can’t fully see and therefore we don’t always comprehend. This leads to us jumping to wrong conclusions and having opinions which are founded upon falsehoods.

Can you give us an example?

Perhaps. We have all grown up with the idea of ‘evolution’ as a scientific fact and ‘progress’ as a social aim. I’m not arguing that either evolution hasn’t occurred, or that social progress isn’t desirable, but in the book I point out how both these ideas lead to huge assumptions about fiction and about life which are shaky at best. Just because something took place in the past shouldn’t mean that it is automatically inferior or less useful to us in the present day. Most readers will be surprised how prevalent those ideas are and how much their own thinking may have been pervaded by them.

So what would you like readers to take away from Myth & the ‘Now’?

I hope it opens some eyes. I hope that, rather than ruin novels and movies and other forms of fiction for them, it reveals the wonderful skeleton by which all such things are carried. And I suppose I hope that some of them at least begin to understand how they can learn to not only see through the tricks and traps of modern culture, but perhaps do something about them.

Plus the book has a link to a full colour chart which diagrams some of the concepts it talks about, downloadable from the website for free. Here's a glimpse of that:

Where can people get the book?

Just head for the website and order either a paperback or a Kindle version here.

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