Thursday, September 27, 2012

Primal Themes

Kristin Lenz’s thoughtful post on the YA fusion blog, reminded me of a section in the book, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (Michael Wiese Productions, 2005). To test if his stories connect with the audience on a basic level, Snyder asks himself, “Is it primal?” or “Would a caveman understand?” He lists primal drives as survival, hunger, sex, protection of loved ones and fear of death.

As I look back on my collection of manuscripts, I agree that they involve these themes, but every novel I’ve written is mostly about loneliness. Perhaps these manuscripts failed because loneliness is a nebulous concept. I’d like to propose, however, that cave-people understood that community was essential for both physical and emotional survival. Surviving high school or an attack by saber-tooth cats may well depend on the supporting characters.


SueBE said...

I'm good at making certain that my characters have a high stakes (at least to them) problem. But is it primal? I never thought to look at it that way. Like you, I have a novel about a character who doesn't fit into her community, but it does have a life or death element. Guess I better play that up. And read Save the Cat! Thanks for the recommendation.

Wyman Stewart said...

Bet Caveman played and had fun too, so fun and happiness is a primal instinct. Is it often ignored in writing? Do your characters have a sense of humor? Do they play, have fun, find happiness? Wasn't it Caveman who invented beer? Yes, I know, beer is a depressant, not that Caveman would have fully understood that.

By the way, I am a lifetime non-drinker, but notice alcohol appears to play a major role in the lives of too many Young Adults. A Cavemanish instinct, perhaps?

Natalie Aguirre said...

I've only finished one manuscript and it's primal. My new one has this theme too. Yay! I'm doing something right. Loved Kristin's post too.

Ann Finkelstein said...

SueBe: Our friend Kristin recommended that book.
Wyman: Fun isn't a problem for me, but the characters have to do other things too.
Natalie: YAY!