Beyond Story Rules, by Rebecca Mate

April 9, 2009 – Hollywood: An author brings their own inventiveness to a story or script in their effort to tell the story they want to tell.

For example, it is easy to point out the downside of cigarette smoking in a story about a greedy CEO in the tobacco industry, because the general public knows the danger. But what if the author wants to point out the dark side of an institution that has not yet had enough public scrutiny?

That was my challenge with a story exposing psychiatry’s ill effects.

Standard storytelling would suggest that one picks a psychiatrist as the antagonist (or protagonist for a tragedy) to represent all psychiatrists. The problem is he’d look just like the “mad scientist” who, although he fights his own demons, doesn’t shed a bad light on science itself. My innovation was to make the story science fiction so I could take an innocent planet, with a population who had advanced to the Internet stage, and have a couple of evil aliens introduce psychiatry (with its “wonder cures”). A young girl, reminding the hero of his daughter in the psychiatric system back on Earth, goes downhill as the planet moves towards its inevitable Holocaust. An additional innovation was giving the hero the position of Quality Control, the person on the team who spots and corrects the team and the organization. His skills used in reverse, when he is trapped in an institution, enable the false psychiatry to be exposed.

Another example is a story I wrote to show the benefits of an international holiday for the arts of all disciplines. To bring this about, I went 30 years into the future, where the world had changed for the better, and showed a young skeptical boy in his search for the mysterious Founder of Art Day.

We have all learned and observed methods of storytelling that work. Beyond that, each story has its own particular problem to solve. How best to communicate our idea, using the people, the world and the goals?

Fortunately, writers are inventive by nature. Let me know some of your story innovations.

Rebecca L. Mate
Award-winning, published short story Writer