After working on a novel for two years, Bonnet realized something was missing -- the structure of story. Bonnet put aside the novel and started a quest to understand story. He spent the next 20 years and countless hours unlocking the secrets of story; those secrets are revealed in his book.
Mark Twain once attached a note to a letter that read, "Sorry about the long letter, I didn't have time to write a short one."
There's no need for Mr. Bonnet to attach such a note to his book -- it's brief and to the point. With a laser focus, he delivers a riveting message that cuts to the heart of storymaking (the art of creating new stories).
In fact, Bonnet's abandoned novel and quest to understand story, represents the nature of story according to Robert McKee. We take an action, expecting a result. A gap occurs between our expectation and the result. We can't get what we want; we take a different approach. Bonnet, an accomplished writer, doesn't achieve his goal of writing a novel. When this gap occurs, he embarks on a journey to discover the structure of story.
The structure of story is embedded in our minds; Bonnet blazes this insight into our hearts:
"The secrets of great stories, it turns out, are the secrets of the human mind... Unlocking the secrets of story unlocks the secrets of the mind. Unlocking the secrets of the mind awakens the power of story within you."
In the past, myths and great stories came from oral storymaking, something in short supply, today. The story starts out rather ordinary, however, inherent tendencies prompt people to change their version, so it's memorable. After the story is told millions of times, a myth takes shape.
Educational psychologists comprehend this truth. They don't develop a teaching method and then expect the human mind to jump through hoops to align with their beloved theory -- if they did, frustration would blanket teacher and student. Instead, teaching techniques are aligned with how the mind learns.
Your intelligence is enhanced by the stories you know. Think about it: When you are trying to solve a problem, do you think about chapter 7 in your strategy book? Or, do you think of an experience, a story, that will help you find the answer? We intuitively use story.
Bonnet refers to his experience with story problems that he wasn't able to solve during the day. Upon waking the following morning, a solution would often pop into his head. He was curious as to who or what was solving his problems.
Suddenly, it dawned on him that his helper was from a story he had read 30 years earlier -- "It's Rumplestilskin!"
The secret hidden in the marvelous story had something important to reveal about the creative process and how our minds function. Namely, that inside our minds there is an unconscious problem solving mechanism (a Rumplestilskin) that continues to work and transform our serious problems (the straw) into precious insights (the gold), while our conscious minds are asleep.
How can we use Bonnet's story concepts in business? As I thought about this question, I realized that archetypes could be used to understand the changing nature of business.
An archetype is a pattern that emerges from hundreds of stories. Bonnet writes, "Archetype means 'basic form' or 'first type'... It is a first model from which the metaphor will spring."
Let's consider the holdfast archetype. The holdfast is that part of the ego that desires to "hold fast" to what we have and resist change. Ever needy, ever hungry, the holdfast is never satisfied -- it always wants more.
CEOs who embrace command-and-control structures and layoff employees in hopes of achieving greater bonuses are holdfasts. Given its business practice of eliminating competition, Microsoft springs from the holdfast archetype.
Through story, we know that an inciting incident is likely to occur and bring about the one thing that all holdfasts hate -- change.
It is ego, however, that blocks creativity and assures downfall. For creative ideas don't come from our egos, they spring from a source outside us. Creative ideas -- From nowhere, to now here.
During a Charlie Rose interview, Quentin Tarantino talked about screenwriting (I paraphrase, since I don't have the interview notes):
I start two characters walking down the street. And the characters take on a mind of their own. If I want the characters to go into the bar, they might say to each other -- Don't mind Quentin, he doesn't know what he's doing. Instead, let's go into this hotel. I say okay and follow them into the hotel.
Are you beginning to see how story can be used in business to solve problems? If you're a new college graduate, there's a good chance you'll work for a holdfast at some point in your career. The problem with the holdfast archetype is that we're in the information age -- organic models are reality.
College students intuitively understand this but often resort to passive/aggressive techniques. Empower students with story, and they have a tool to effect change without getting fired. Given this truth, every university should include storymaking as part of the curriculum.
You may never use the structure of story to write a bestselling novel. Still, by understanding story you benefit: Watch as business scenarios and secrets unfold before your eyes, or tell yourself a story that allows you to spin straw into gold.