I’ve been deeply buried in a project for the last six months, working on a new book with my friend David McKenna, a Columbia film professor and a fellow story consultant. It will be coming out in the fall from Michael Wiese Productions, the publisher of THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, and will be called MEMO FROM THE STORY DEPARTMENT. We are describing the tools of the story trade, the systems and concepts that we use in our work, including a brief review of the Hero’s Journey and the character archetypes, but mostly new material. David has written about a technique of examining scenes and characters from six different points of view, considering different environmental factors that shape a story. I am writing chapters on fairy tale structure and an approach to character that dates back to Aristotle’s time, plus a piece on “What I Learned from Vaudeville” about how the old-timers structured an evening of satisfying entertainment. The book is a kind of tribute to our influences, our heroes, to the people who have asked questions about story and tried to think systematically about it.
This is the same book I mentioned months ago under the working title “Boilerplate”. Nobody liked that title — too “old school” — so we changed it. The title “Memo from the Story Department” refers back to “The Writer’s Journey” which began life as a short memo I wrote while at the Disney company to inform my colleagues about the usefulness of the Hero’s Journey and Joseph Campbell’s ideas. This new “memo” continues in that effort to open up the treasure chest of story know-how. We both struggled mightily to learn our craft and unearth forgotten story lore and now we want to share it with everyone else in the hope it will lead to better stories. Lord knows we need them.