The Journey Vs The Story; Or What Katherine Heigl And Avatar Have In Common

Real quick tell me what movie this is.  A quirky female is attempting to find her place in the world when she meets up with this guy she can’t stand.  Through a twist of fate they are forced together, fall in love, have to overcome an obstacle but end up together and happy ever after.  Alright what movie is that?  What do you mean that could be one of several hundred movies?  Alright what if I tell you it stars Katherine Heigl?  What do you mean that it could still be one of several dozen?  🙂  I am quite aware that this sounds like the plot line of every single romantic comedy, but that is kinda my point.  My wife loves romantic comedies but they all have the same basic plot lines and hit the same exact beats.  With that said I will admit that I actually enjoy some romantic comedies.  So how is it that I can enjoy watching basically the same exact movie over and over and over again?  Because there is a difference between the story and the journey.

The story is obviously what the book/movie/tv show is all about.  But the journey is the telling of how this all comes to be.  Take the movie Avatar for example.  Same basic story as Dances With Wolves don’t you think?  Yet the thing is I really don’t like Dances With Wolves, but Avatar?  I can watch me some Avatar.  You take the same basic story, change the setting, maybe change the order of a few plot points and BOOM, same story different journey.

To continue with my horrible analogies think of the story as the outside of a twinkie and the journey as the cream filling.  Sure the outside of a twinkie looks good enough and makes you interested in trying it out, but what if there isn’t any cream filling in the middle?  Do you know how dry that is going to be?  No amount of milk is going to make that any better!  That is going to be like eating a tube of sand that is covered in sand.  I’m sorry what were we talking about again?

The reason I bring this up is because I try to keep this in mind whenever I’m writing.  You can have the most amazing story in the world but if the journey is boring nobody is going to want to read it.  On the same hand you can have a very basic story but send readers on the most amazing journey they have ever been on.

Hopefully you all understand what I am rambling on about and get my point.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the most interesting or complex story in the world that isn’t all the matters.

This blog is brought to you by Hostess Twinkies tm



Filed under Writing

10 responses to “The Journey Vs The Story; Or What Katherine Heigl And Avatar Have In Common

  1. You were just looking for a reason to post that picture of Katherine Heigl – admit it. 🙂

    Just kidding – very good point! And to me, it’s hard to separate the two since the journey is the story … or if the story the journey?

  2. Andy

    Katherine Heigl is the only reason I need to watch a rom com LOL.

  3. Good stuff! I needed that reminder that when writing to a genre, the differences are in the journey. I had great advice from a big published author once, along the very same lines. She said, when people pick up a thriller/fantasy/romance, that’s what they are wanting to read, so it should follow the basic ‘storyline’ that other books in that genre do. That helped heaps, as has your post reminding me today 🙂 Thanks. Now I’m off to write!

  4. My wife was scolding me and I told her that I’d heard the same thing from my first wife, but with my first wife I hated it but now I liked it, because it wasn’t about the story of my failings, which will always be the same, given my problems with alcohol, drugs, money management, ADD, and gender confusion about sex, but about the journey with wife number two instead of wife number one. Wife number two told me, though, that if my failings were going to be the same, and the story was going to be the same, then the second journey was through right now and I could go back to wife number one and try that journey again. She didn’t get it.

  5. It became clear when I hit the twinkie part, just kidding.

    We love troupes for a reason. It isn’t unheard of to take something tired and old, put a different spin on it and make it awesome again.

    I like the way your mind works, I feel I’m in good company.

  6. That was a great post… and I thought the comments were great! I hope you had a wonderful July 4th…
    Take care,

  7. Good point, well made. It’s certainly true of every boy meets girl story under the sun. So as a budding romance author I just need to work out how to make the journeys of my characters more compelling than those of any other writer!

  8. jaredbernard

    People cling to familiarity. You could expand your basic premise to the plots of all stories: catalyst, transformation x 3, climax, dénouement. Or songs: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus. Songs about love, sex, or breaking up. Stories about overcoming odds, some true and some fiction. People line up like lemmings to witness that same old format, just swap around the setting, change up the tune a bit. Does this mean that a great story, as you suggest, that tries to break away from the tested pattern, will likely fail? What does that say about how we view art or the world at large? I thought Avatar was a suped up version of Ferngully.

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