For years I have been a writer, an editor and a teacher of creative writing. Now I want to share some of what I have learned along the way. Write On The Fringes is a blog about the dangers, the disappointments and the rewards of writing. It's a record of the writing of a novel, from the tantalising first inklings of an idea, through to the final draft. But above all it's an exploration of the art and the craft of writing and the nature of story, as well as a search for the essence of creativity and the complex nature of truth.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 - Revelations

'The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.'
Albert Einstein

Earlier this year I wrote a post called Writing Through 2012. It arose as a response to the predominantly negative interpretation of the significance of 2012, and from asking myself if creativity is possible without hope? At the time, like many others, I had become focused on all that is wrong with the world in which we live, and as a result had sunk into a sense of bleakness and a dark depression. I had not understood the way our thoughts form what we fear and the way our fears become the focus of our thoughts – a  powerful catch 22 that traps us in a psychological prison that creates self-fulfilling prophecies.  

This has not been an easy year for many. Globally there have been heart breaking tragedies, injustices, betrayals and disappointments, but there have also been huge outpourings of compassion, peaceful demonstrations against violence, greater demands for transparency, integrity and honesty in government and the media. Humanity is beginning to change, beginning to seek a new and saner path and we are lucky enough to be a part of this change. 

‘The world is changing and the time has come to let go of the old ways, the ones that ensure the repetitions of history. Peace is a gentle thing that can no longer be fought for. Instead it will enter our hearts and spread from there like the ripples of a pebble dropped into a pond.'  These words form part of the epilogue to my novel, Flight. They are a cry of hope, a small force against the fearfulness that inhabits humanity’s collective consciousness, a fearfulness that is consistently fed by the negative focus of the media.  

The original post still speaks to the times we find ourselves in so I thought this a timely moment to repost it below. I wish you all a fearless, hopeful and joy filled festive season.  

Writing Through 2012
'The world is changing and we are changing with it. It is too soon perhaps to see how.'
Rosie Dub, Flight

It's only early March and I have already had a significant birthday, a new novel published and I've become a Doctor of Philosophy. There have been school holidays and guests, colds and overgrown gardens to attend to. Time seems to be speeding up, it's difficult (well actually impossible), to fit everything in each day. And not least of all, it's 2012; there are murmurings of dread in the air whispers of prophecies and predictions, the end of the world, wars, earthquakes, social disruption. . . . The news is full of injustice and upheaval, insane violence and corruption. 'The Apocalypse,' people are saying. 'The Mayans predicted it for 2012. It is coming.'

Needless to say, so far this year I've found it difficult to settle down and write, difficult sometimes to even credit the value of writing or to focus on anything positive. Because hope is what keeps us moving forward, it's what keeps us creating when around us is destruction. Without hope, we find ourselves sinking into a mire of helplessness and with that comes a shadowy inertness that becomes stronger and darker each time it is fed. Caught in this helpless spiral I found myself sinking quickly, and seeking more fuel to feed this hopelessness. I stared at the blank screen on my computer and found nothing to say, stopped writing in my journal, forgot I had a new novel to write, a new story to tell, something that sought harmony through chaos and beauty through ugliness, something that just might help provide a little nudge towards making this world we have created into a better place. I forgot why I had written Flight, what gifts it had given me and a growing number of readers. In short, I forgot the power of hope.

'We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.' I read this anonymous quote many years ago and at the time it shifted something within me, helping me to see from a different perspective, one that is not so much 'me' centred but rather 'world' centred, a perspective that reveals a bigger picture and a sense of responsibility. When I read this again recently, I realised that with three children growing into an uncertain world, it is vital for me to keep the flame of hope burning. In fact, it is my responsibility.

'Enough,' I said to myself and set about making a few changes. Firstly, I made the decision not to watch the news for a while, or anything else for that matter; no ruthless elimination shows, no violent dramas, no historical war documentaries and no flashy, inane celebrity shows. I went for a walk, then another, took up yoga again, made myself a vegetable juice, all the things I couldn't do when I was filled with hopelessness. Quickly I began feeling better. I looked at my journal again, went over what I had already written and once again began getting flashes of insights that I hoped would lead me back to my new novel. But all the time I kept wondering about this apocalypse business, wondering if it would be more useful to grow vegetables, put in a water tank, get off the grid, protect my children from the inevitable. . .

Frustrated, I looked up the word 'apocalypse' a term we associate with widespread destruction, with the end of the world as we know it. But in the definition I found something quite different. Apocalypse comes from the Greek word, apocalypsis, meaning a 'lifting of the veil' or 'revelation'. According to Wikipedia it means 'a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception'. Not an end then, far from it. Rather a time of change and a seeing through. A time perhaps when truth will be harder to hide. When humanity will look for different qualities in their leaders; integrity perhaps, compassion and honesty. Looking at it in this way, it is not an end but a possibility of a new beginning. With this definition in mind I can sit in front of my computer screen and find the words needed to create something new. Once again I have found hope and optimism and with it the possibility of action. And with that, the key to my new novel, Walking Between Worlds

Copyright (c) 2013 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Exploring Landscape and Belonging Through Story

‘Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.’
James Baldwin Giovanni’s Room

Recently I attended a storytelling festival in Aberystwyth and as I sat mesmerized by the unfolding story of Pryderi, the ruler of Dyfed, I realized once again the power of the ancient stories and the oral tradition of storytelling to connect us to history, to each other and to the land. In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote that, ‘telling or hearing stories draws its power from a towering column of humanity joined one to the other across time and space, elaborately dressed in the rags or robes or nakedness of their time.’ Listening to this spine tingling retelling of stories from the Welsh Mabinogion, for a moment I felt myself balanced on this towering column and understood what it must mean for someone to feel rooted to the earth, to grow and develop in a country with stories that feed the soul with the wisdom of mythic times, and a landscape that is steeped in these stories.

While the stories we tell about ourselves form our individual identity, the stories we tell about our country form our national identity and for better or worse, these narratives act as roots to ground us to place, providing a sense of belonging and a definition of nationhood. I don’t pretend to be Welsh but my ancestral roots are closer to Britain than they are to Australia where my ancestors are not the indigenous Aboriginal people whose land was taken from them. It’s not always comfortable being a white Australian. We have no ancient claim to the land and no traditional stories to draw from, except the stories of conquering and overcoming the odds, and the legends of mateship and a ‘fair go’ that came with colonization and a persistent white Australian policy. These are stories that have become mythologized in Australia, forming a national character that often marginalizes the indigenous population and ignores the fact that Australia is now a multi-cultural nation and the majority of its population are or once were, immigrants.

There are a number of contradictions inherent in white Australians’ relationship to the land. Many of us are at once drawn to, and repelled by the outback, awed by its beauty and frightened by its dangers. We carry the guilt of the conqueror, a guilt that often stops us from claiming a real connection to the land. Our legendary heroes are the men who cleared fields of rocks, who dug canals to drain marshy land, who made the harsh land work for them. The Aussie battler has become part of our national character. Yet, despite this reverence for the outback, more than ninety percent of Australians live in urban environments, for the most part clustered around the edges of this continent, turned away from the centre which carries such a mystique. We romanticise the wilderness, but most rarely, if ever, experience it. Yet, deep within us there's such a longing for wildness, for wilderness and for the sense of real connection with place.

When I began writing my first novel, Gathering Storm, I had no idea how important a role landscape would play in it or how confused I was about my own relationship to the land. The story moves from the snow covered Malvern Hills in England to the harsh heat of the Australian outback, a dramatic contrast in itself, but then there are the contradictions that are deeply embedded in the relationship the characters have with the places in which they live, or once lived, or never lived, but still dream of. These are contradictions which I feel strongly, having grown up in the suburban wilderness of Adelaide, with its manicured lawns, neat fences and garden beds filled with roses and hydrangeas, all cowering under well placed umbrellas to avoid the worst of the baking sun. At school I learned European history in an education system that was still clinging to the comforting notion of a homeland. The only things reminding me that there was more to Australia, were the throaty laugh of the kookaburra, the eucalyptus scent of the gums trees, the fierce summer heat and the frequent dust storms that blew in from 'out back', turning the sky orange and clogging our lungs.

The word nostalgia comes from two Greek roots, nostos (returning home) and algos (pain). For most of my life I suffered from this affliction; a yearning to return home but no idea of where that home might be. This sense of alienation I felt goes some way towards explaining why I decided to make my main character English in Gathering Storm. This gave me the freedom to describe Australia through the eyes of a stranger, someone who doesn't belong. Storm is also part Romany – partly imbued with the blood of a nomadic people, and although her family have lived in England for nearly seventy years, she still doesn't fully belong there either. Storm belongs nowhere. She is torn between movement and stillness, restless but afraid, wanting to settle, but eager to move. Her sense of self is scattered between the cottage in the Malvern Hills, her boyfriend’s apartment, her art studio and her Kombi van. Then there's her romantic notion of a Bohemia she has never visited, her nostalgia for the Malvern of her childhood and her fearful retracing of her mother's footsteps in the Australian outback. And finally there's the traumatic cultural legacy of the past that plays havoc with her sense of self. Storm’s childhood is filled with secrets and silences embedded in the spaces between the stories her family reluctantly tell. Speaking of her childhood need for stories, Storm says, ‘I consumed them as if there were a great hollow inside me that needed filling and that once filled, their weight, the weight of my ancestors, would act as an anchor. . .’

For me, a sense of belonging is linked very closely to place and to the stories we tell that connect us to place. I was an adopted child and grew up steeped in a sense of my own illegitimacy. Like Storm, I felt I belonged nowhere, that no place was truly mine. And because this lack of belonging was a strong central theme in my own life, it inevitably demanded to be explored in the stories I told. Woven through both Gathering Storm and Flight, is this sense of dislocation and statelessness that can be felt and experienced personally, but also within a family a culture and a nation. Place gives us identity, a passport to belonging. But time does it too. In a sense, space and time cross when a family or a people have been anchored in one place for generations. Ancestors provide us with roots and so does place. As Storm asks: How long does it take? How many generations? Do we inherit place? Do we earn it? Or is belonging simply a state of mind? Exploring these questions through writing has helped me to resolve issues of belonging and identity within my own life. Like Storm I have begun to suspect that belonging is ultimately something we carry inside of ourselves. It is a realisation that comes when we are on the right path in our lives. Until then nowhere is ours, but when this realisation arrives, the world becomes ours. For as Joseph Campbell wrote, ‘our true reality is in our identity and unity with all life’.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Writing Between Worlds – Describing the Indescribable

‘The frontier of our world is not far away; it doesn't run along the horizon or in the depths. It glimmers faintly close by, in the twilight of our nearest surroundings; out of the corner of our eye we can always glimpse another world, without realizing it.’ 
Michel Adjvaz

Two months ago I arrived in Wales, a place of great beauty and wildness, a place laden with mystery and layered with history. Here it seems as if the veil between worlds is thinner than elsewhere, so that from the corner of my eye I see glimpses of other times - a flash of a man on horseback, the swish of long skirts. . . There are glimpses of other worlds too, as I discovered driving home one evening along a narrow country lane with a forest lining each side of the road. Ahead of me, I clearly saw a figure the size of a man yet not a man, moving across the road but high up, almost level with the canopies of the trees. Not wanting to make my children nervous, I decided not to mention it. Despite my precautions my son went strangely quiet and we drove home in silence. The next morning as we retraced the road through the same forest, I told my children that I had seen something the night before. My son stated that he had seen something too in this spot, but by the side of the road, just a little above the ground, a figure the size of a man yet not a man . . .

Real and yet not real. Imagination? Fantasy? It’s generally easy for others to rationalise these things away, as a trick of the light, a flight of the imagination, wishful thinking even. . . and yet when we experience something outside of the realms of what we consider normal or possible, then we know it with a deep and protective certainty. In my experience many people have seen or experienced something they cannot explain, yet most of them keep it to themselves in the knowledge that putting it to words generally reduces the experience, and in the fear that they will be ridiculed. In Weight, Jeanette Winterson wrote, 'Right now, human beings as a mass, have a gruesome appetite for what they call 'real'. . . Such a phenomenon points to a terror of the inner life, of the sublime, of the poetic, of the non-material, of the contemplative.' Perhaps we carry this fear in our genes, stamped by the horrors of history into our ancestors and passed down generation after generation. This has been reinforced by the successes of scientific materialism and the relegation of the non-rational to the status of superstition. Inevitably, over time we have become detached from the natural world around us and lost our own connection with the magic and mystery of life, handing control of the spiritual experience to the priests of organised religion and handing validation of our own experience, to their modern equivalent, the technocrats of science. We have been taught to hold the fear at bay by seeking certainty in the rational, the measurable, the flesh and blood physical world of the five senses, and in so doing we have passively watched the colour seep out of life. Perhaps it is fear that has led so many of us to consider as virtues the deadening qualities of scepticism and cynicism.

The best of religion is not blinkered and nor is the best of science. One of our greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, once said that ‘the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant,’ then went on to warn that ‘we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ In so doing we have found ourselves limited by the constraints of the five-senses which have come to define the physical world, and yet there is so much more beyond these restrictions, so many more threads which connect all things and such a thin membrane separating the physical world from the invisible world. I have always been interested in treading the line between worlds in my writing, of finding ways to transcend the boundaries of time and space. Not by creating fantastical other worlds but rather by slipping back and forth between our everyday world and the worlds which sit beyond or within. Yet I know from personal experience just how difficult it is to translate extrasensory experience onto paper without losing its vitality, and for a time this difficulty led me to stay closer to the ‘real’ in my writing than I wished.

Stories themselves are not ‘of this world’. As Haruki Murakami wrote inSputnik Sweetheart, ‘a real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.' With this in mind, I finally took the plunge and began breaking the rules of realism, playing with space and time, with cause and effect and with the line between life and death. In Eva Luna, Isabel Allende wrote that ‘reality is not only what we see on the surface; it has a magical dimension as well and, if we so desire, it is legitimate to enhance it and color it to make our journey through life less trying.” In a sense this is what I have done in Flight – taken my own experiences, many of which I hadn’t fully understood, and thrown them into the winds, letting them settle into place and form a story, whilst giving my imagination free reign to fill in the gaps. What eventually emerged was something more truthful than any material fact I could cite.

Writing that explores these boundaries between the visible and invisible worlds tends to be called magical realist but more often than not this title is applied to or claimed by only South American writers such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In truth, its roots are much broader, including among others, Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, Salmon Rushdie, Franz Kafka, and  Haruki Murakami. For want of a better word, I will label my latest novel, Flight as magical realist, a genre I am drawn to for a number of reasons. Firstly, magical realism has a strong affinity with Jungian psychology, encouraging a sense of connectedness between all things and often drawing on ancient esoteric beliefs. Secondly, I believe that magical realism is a subversive genre. Whether or not we write directly about politics, our writing is always a political act because depending on our approach it defines, reinforces or rewrites our understanding of the world in which we live. To re-introduce magic into realism is a necessary political act, pushing back against the restrictive socially constructed boundaries of what is ‘real’. And finally, as Lois Zamora and Wendy Faris wrote in Magical Realism, ‘the supernatural . . . [becomes] an ordinary matter, an everyday occurrence – admitted, accepted and integrated into the rationality and materiality of literary realism’. In this genre, magic is a fundamental part of life, as ordinary and as necessary as the air we breathe. This gives us the space to write about our experiences without fear of ridicule, drawing on symbolism and metaphor to create the necessary bridges between one world and the other. In so doing we are finally able to describe the indescribable. 

Copyright (c) 2013 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Alchemy of Story: Initiation, Transformation, Revelation

'The journey into the Underworld is nothing less than a voyage into the heart of Being.’
Peter Marshall, The Philosopher’s Stone

 When I finished my PhD last year, along with the expected sense of completion, came a building excitement because already I could feel the tug of future journeys; new directions in my research were piling up, luring me to explore ever more widely and deeply.  I felt as if I had only just begun my research journey and this is a feeling I still carry with me; constant and tantalizing it speaks of knowledge just out of my reach, of further personal journeys I must take in my writing and my life, revelations that will transform my perceptions and my self. For the knowledge gained through reading isn’t enough. It must also be ‘realised’ in some way, taken in and understood in our hearts and through experience. Research is a fusion of reading and experience, it is something we must live. As Paolo Coehlo wrote in The Alchemist, ‘There is only one way to learn. . . It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.’ Each of us is on a personal journey that links to but doesn’t follow exactly, the paths of those who have come before.  And each journey is an initiation of sorts, the plunging into darkness that is necessary in order to find the light.

 I have been reading Lindsay Clarke’s The Water Theatre, a beautiful and profound novel that explores this initiatory process. In it, Clarke refers to the Way of the Fool, a way that is sometimes hard and dangerous because it is a spiritual quest undertaken ‘without the protection and discipline that comes from membership of an order’. ‘On such a way one can get lost very easily. One can come to harm,’ warns a priest in the novel. Despite the difficulties and dangers of this path, for many of us this is the only way. With this choice comes an understanding that there is never just one journey, that each initiation leads us to another place from which we must plunge again into the depths as we seek the light. As Clarke writes, ‘though the journey is always inward, the outer journey – down and through and out again – is indispensable, for it is down there, in the darkness of the underworld that the sun at midnight shines.’

 Although I’ve already mentioned this in some of my earlier posts, I want to explore a little further the way in which mystical initiation can be mirrored in the structure of story and the inner journey of character. Initially it was my interest in the therapeutic nature of story that led me to explore the roots of and nature of shamanism. Unexpectedly, threads of my research began to appear in my novel in the form of references to shamanism and to the process of initiation that candidates are forced to undertake in order to become shamans. However, it wasn't until much later that I began to understand the shamanic journey as a metaphor for something that was reflected in the very shape of Flight, as well as in my own personal journey during the writing of it.

 According to Jungian analyst, Donald F Sandner in Sacred Heritage: The Influence of Shamanism on Analytical Psychology, 'the basic shamanic pattern is not a manifestation of a certain culture but rather an archetype, a constant and universal part of the human psyche'. Anthropologist, Joan Halifax refers to shamanic initiation as a metaphysical voyage, while Jung saw the patterns in shamanism as a metaphor for the process of individuation. These patterns are implicit in the structure of most stories: the symbolism of death and mystical resurrection, descent to the underworld, followed by magical flight. It is a turning away from what is known and a stepping into the unknown. It is a call to change and to adventure. To deny the opportunity for adventure is to deny life and in so doing to restrict the growth of the soul. 

 Religious historian Mercea Eliade, studied shamanism and myth and drew strong parallels across many cultures, parallels which are useful for exploring the relationship between shamanism and story. Of particular interest is his map of the structure of the shaman's world and the way in which shamanic journeying mirrors the structure of narrative. In shamanism there is usually an upper, middle and lower world, which mirrors the selves or the layers of the psyche. The middle world is the world we recognise, the world of ordinary events. The lower world or underworld is associated with death and shadow, as well as dangerous spirits and in Christianity is generally considered hell. The upper world is associated with light and ascension, it is 'the realm of transcendent consciousness' a realm that Christianity refers to as heaven. Crucially, however, one can only access the higher world through the lower world. We cannot ignore or bury what lurks in our depths without becoming weighed down, too heavy for the required ascent.  It is possible then, to extend this idea of an upper, middle and lower world to the structure of narrative, with the protagonist beginning in the middle world, journeying into the underworld, then, if the necessary lessons are learned, ascending to the upper world, before returning once again to the middle world to share his or her rewards.

 In Flight, Fern's journey is an initiation. I used the term shamanism and indeed, Fern's initiation pattern is very similar: a sickening, followed by a loss of self, then a journey into the underworld to face one's demons, followed by a regaining of power and flight. However, this is the journey of the soul and does not need to be labelled as a shamanic journey. When Fern expresses a discomfort about shamanism, Cassie tells her that it is just one of many paths, all of which bring you to the same place, your self. 'A shaman,' she says, 'is just someone who has healed themselves and because of this, they can heal others.'

 Following my instincts and the needs of the novel I am currently writing, my research has led me to begin exploring mystical initiation through the ages, in particular alchemy which can be interpreted on both a literal (physical) level and a metaphorical (spiritual) level. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Peter Marshall explains that ‘first and foremost alchemy is the art of transformation’ and goes on to describe the alchemical process as mirroring ‘the stages of the integration and realisation of the self’, something which Jung identified in his own studies of the art of alchemy. The parallels between shamanism and alchemy were immediately clear, as were the parallels between alchemy and story. In story, the external plot mirrors the inward transformation of character; in alchemy ‘the transmutation of external matter mirrors the inward transformation of the soul.’

 Initiation, Transformation, Revelation is a fundamental part of the alchemical process and something that is repeated again and again in our lives and our stories. The writing of a novel can also be an initiation of sorts, changing us fundamentally, as has happened to me with each of my books. In the preface to his novel, The Chymical Wedding, Lindsay Clarke describes the writing process as a discovery that a book about alchemy also needed to be a ‘work of alchemy’.  He writes, ‘I soon found myself getting lost again and again, like the alchemists before me, inside a bewildering labyrinth of images, as both the book and the author underwent a sometimes gruelling process of transformation.’ There are many ways to self, just as there are many paths to writing a novel. For each there are a multitude of guides, mentors and techniques acting as the threads to help us find our way blindly through the labyrinth, following the Way of the Fool in order to become ourselves.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Heroine's Journey

'The journey of the Heroine is about saying 'yes' to the true self and, in so doing, to become more fully alive and effective in the world.'
Maureen Murdock

For the past few weeks I have been writing about Joseph Campbell’s model of the Hero’s Journey and how it translates to the stages within story. However, many women are concerned that this model of the heroic journey excludes women, or at least doesn't allow for gender differences. Maureen Murdock, in her book, The Heroine's Journey goes some way towards addressing this problem by suggesting a useful alternative model for women which is similar to but in a sense more layered than Campbell’s model. I won’t go into the details of each stage in this post but they include:
Separation from feminine; identification with Masculine and gathering allies
Road of trials, meeting ogres and dragons
Finding the (illusory) boon of success
Awakening to feelings of spiritual aridity: death
Initiation and Descent to the Goddess
Urgent yearning to reconnect with the feminine
Healing the mother/daughter split
Healing the wounded masculine
Integration of the masculine and feminine

Unlike Campbell's linear structure for story, Murdock proposes a circular structure more appropriate to the inward seeking nature of the woman's journey. While, I agree with and appreciate the stages Murdoch lists in her model, I am not drawn to its circular nature. In some ways a circle might symbolically represent completion but it also represents the potential for nightmarish repetition; to end where you began is not what stories seek to do. As psychologist, Roger Woolger writes, 'psychologically, circles can represent every kind of self-perpetuating torment’. I prefer to imagine the journey as a double spiral structure, one that ensures a descent but also a return to a new position, expressing the symbolic death of the body and its spiritual rebirth through initiation. As a double spiral we are also left with the suggestion that there will be new journeys, taking us into new adventures, both internal and external.

 In The Heroine’s Journey, Murdock calls one of the stages, 'Initiation and Descent to the Goddess', describing the Babylonian myth of Inanna's descent into the underworld, to visit her sister Ereshkigal who has been raped by the gods and exiled to the underworld. On her way, Inanna must pass seven gates, at each of which she surrenders more of her identity, until naked she arrives in the Underworld where she is stripped of her life and left to rot, before being released once again, reborn. The myth of Inanna, is a beautiful story, a metaphor for initiation into the mystery of life and like many of the more masculine heroic stories, it also recognises the need to confront the darkness in our psyches. In my novel, Flight, this darkness is represented by the malevolence invading the protagonist’s dreams and threatening her life, as well as the surfacing of old memories, particularly of herself as a baby. There are parallels between the myth of Inanna and Flight, with Fern's stay in the psychiatric ward acting as a metaphor for the underworld. It is here that Fern begins to experience the malevolence attacking her. And here that Fern begins to surrender her identity, when in the mirror she comes face to face with her skeleton self. Later she dreams of her skeleton self, collapsing into pieces, symbolising the death of her old self. From there she must face the darkness in order to begin the restructuring process and eventually give birth to a new self.

Whilst accepting that there are essential gender differences and that it is useful to identify them, I believe, like Vogler, that despite a clear historical bias in determining the content of stories and the gender of its heroes, the structure of heroic myth maps a human process of evolution towards a potential that exists beyond these differences. Most stories involve a character's descent into their psyche in some way with their ultimate goal the balancing of the masculine and the feminine. Certainly some of the markers along the way are different, as Murdock identifies. In many respects, men and women do have different journeys: the masculine journey is usually an active, goal oriented quest, whilst the feminine journey is more internal, like the story of Inanna, a descent into ones depths. Yet, as Bruno Bettelheim points out in The Uses of Enchantment, 'even when the girl is depicted as turning inward in her struggle to become herself, and a boy as aggressively dealing with the external world, these two together symbolize the two ways in which one has to gain selfhood: through learning to understand and master the inner as well as the outer world.' While the plot in stories usually represents an external active adventure of some sort, the character arc generally represents an inner journey. So a protagonist might embark on an adventure in order to learn how to be active in the world but in so doing also be forced to confront his or her inner demons.

 Perhaps ultimately both journeys are a metaphor for the same goal, hence the 'active' and 'masculine' slaying of a dragon is a metaphor for inner change, for facing those things within us that we are most afraid of and for reclaiming our treasure. So while we should not deny the rich differences between genders, it is in these journeys that we reclaim our power, seeking to recognise and in a sense move beyond duality by balancing the masculine and feminine elements within ourselves.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Hero's Journey - Stages of the Adventure

‘We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
Joseph Campbell

It seems appropriate to be writing about the Hero’s Journey right now, as I’m immersed in my own journey; moving to a new country, a new job and ultimately, no doubt, a new way of living. Journeys are always confronting and no matter how well planned, any adventure will be filled with both joy and terror, moments when everything slips into harmony and we know all is as it should be, and other moments when we feel we simply can’t go on, or we’re certain we’ve made a terrible mistake setting off at all. But there’s no turning back, so all we can do is deal with each new challenge as it arises, riding the wave of change and hoping we’re not dumped too often.

In my last post I wrote more generally about the Hero’s Journey. This post I want to explore the stages of the journey more deeply. According to mythologist, Joseph Campbell, the three stages of story, Separation, Initiation and Return, can be found in most heroic myths, many contemporary stories, and in the journeys of mystics, shamans and sages throughout time and space. Within each major stage Campbell identified a number of common elements: Separation includes: the Call to Adventure; Refusal of the Call; Supernatural Aid; the Crossing of the First Threshold; and the Belly of the Whale. Initiation includes: The Road of Trials; the Meeting with the Goddess; Woman as Temptress; Atonement with the Father; Apotheosis; and the Ultimate Boon. Return includes: Refusal of Return; the Magic Flight; Rescue from Without; the Crossing of the Return Threshold; Master of Two Worlds; and Freedom to Live.

In The Writer's Journey, Christopher Vogler describes a simpler three-part, twelve-stage structure in stories, which incorporates and occasionally develops the stages Campbell identified. Act One or Preparation includes: The Ordinary World, The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting the Mentor and Crossing The Threshold.  Act Two or Journey, includes: Test, Allies and Enemies, Approaching the Inmost Cave, Ordeal and Reward. Act Three or Return, includes: The Road Back, Resurrection and Return with the Elixir.
Although Vogler concentrates on film, his theories can be applied just as easily to a wide range of novels as there is a great deal of commonality in the structure of films and novels. Indeed many films are direct adaptations of novels. According to Vogler, all or most of these twelve stages are evident in a broad range of stories and genres, which he then goes on to analyse, applying his theories to films as diverse as Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Titanic, The Full Monty and even Quentin Tarantino's post structuralist film, Pulp Fiction.

Critics have accused Vogler of concentrating on Hollywood films and creating a formulaic method for writing narrative and developing characters. Vogler does warn of the dangers inherent in following the twelve stages as a formula, stating that for the writer, 'the conscious awareness of its patterns may be a mixed blessing, for it's easy to generate thoughtless cliché and stereotypes from this matrix'. He then goes on to answer his critics by demonstrating the vastly diverse array of factors that can be applied to each stage, creating endless possibilities for stories. Like Vogler, I believe that all good writing is informed by, but steps beyond technique or craft. If we write from our heart, if we allow our stories to lead us into the depths of ourselves, if we emotionally engage with our writing, then what emerges are living, vital stories, not clichéd market driven formulas.

As a writer, I found Vogler's theories fascinating because when I applied them to my own work, I could see that unconsciously I had created stories that fitted closely with his model. And when I applied his structure to my own writing life, I could identify the stages and the parallels between the story, the writing of the story and the themes in my own life, expressing themselves through Flight.
During the writing of Flight, I was already familiar with Vogler's twelve part structure but did not use it as a framework for my story as I didn't want my novel to feel formulaic or to be weakened by forcing it into an external shape. Vogler suggested that there are a number of variations on the order of the stages. 'The stages,' he wrote, 'can be deleted, added to, and drastically shuffled without losing any of their power'. I decided to write without a plan and it is only in retrospect that I can see where Vogler's structure does and does not fit in Flight.

Flight begins with a depressed Fern, self-imprisoned in her attic. She has been there for some months and this has become her Ordinary World, the world that is generally portrayed at the beginning of a story, and one in which there is often some form of stagnation that needs to be addressed. There are a number of Calls to Adventure, which are refused. Change is not something most people choose willingly, so more often than not the hero is not inclined to accept the call. When this occurs then inevitably the call will become stronger, and life as the hero knows it will collapse, forcing him or her to accept change. Twice, Fern's flat mate, Claire, asks Fern to come out of her room as they are moving out of their rental house. Shamesh appearing on the pavement below her room is also a Call to Adventure, but not one that Fern understands. Even when Fern escapes through the window and into Cassie's house, she is still a reluctant hero, choosing to react rather than act.

There are crucial moments in every story, moments of decision that change everything: Billie Elliot puts on a pair of ballet shoes and steps into his first dance class; in the Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon decides to make a run for it with a strange woman; and James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces, enters a rehabilitation clinic. Crossing the Threshold is that moment in a story when there is no turning back: a plane takes off; the hero shuts the door behind her and is thrust into a new world; a crime is committed. . . In Flight, Fern Crosses the First Threshold when she leaves her attic room and steps out onto the street, knowing there is no turning back. According to Steven Jones, 'the threshold crossing is a crossing from the conscious, rational realm to a fictional representation of the unconscious, non-rational domain of the individual's psyche'. Indeed, once Fern steps out of her Ordinary World, she is confronted with Tests, Allies and Enemies and finds that the rules and regulations in this ‘new’ world are different. Reality is not what it seems and the adventures she experiences are to test her readiness for the task ahead of her. Along the way every hero must learn new rules, collect allies and inevitably make some enemies, either in the form of other characters or in the form of self doubt, destructive behaviour etc. These adventures test the hero’s readiness for the task ahead.

In the Approach to the Inmost Cave the hero makes final preparations for the central ordeal of the adventure, says Vogler, who then goes on to use the analogy of the mountaineer who has reached base camp and is preparing to climb the highest peak. The subsequent Ordeal occurs in this metaphoric inmost cave in which the hero faces their greatest fear/s. This can be physical, psychological or emotional, and can be represented by anything from fighting a monster, to standing up to a parent. But in some way the hero must die and be reborn. In Vogler's terms, this is the crisis, not the climax of the story, which comes towards the end. Success at this crisis point enables the hero to develop and change. In Flight, the Ordeal comes early in the novel, when Fern is put into a psychiatric ward. It is here that she finds her power and undergoes a symbolic initiation; a death and a resurrection. She emerges from the cave, not having vanquished her enemy but having gathered her strength, and is now fully equipped to complete the journey. This is Fern’s Reward. The Inmost Cave is the equivalent of Campbell's, Belly of the Whale, in that it is symbolic of the hero's immersion in the unconscious.

Soon after Fern escapes from the psychiatric ward she makes the decision to turn around and face her enemy, a decision that she acts upon by seeking him out. But it is only later, when the enemy that is attacking her, steps through her dreams and into life, nearly killing her, that Fern understands what is at stake and senses she has reached a turning point. Perhaps this is a second Inmost Cave, a moment of realisation, when Fern is more afraid than she has ever been but has to act anyway.

There are many Trials and Tribulations in the hero’s journey, occurring both before and after the Inmost Cave. These trials occur in the dream world where Fern must fight battles she doesn't understand. And they occur in the physical world where the rules are generally clear, such as her meeting with her birth mother and the confrontation with the Bloodhound. However, her meeting with her father does not have clear rules because in the centre of the labyrinth the rules are different. Here the physical world and the dream world meet and Fern finds herself fighting with her father on both planes at once.

The Road Back is a turning point, another threshold to cross and it generally occurs after the Inmost Cave. The hero must either decide to return or be forced to return to the Ordinary World. And he or she must take with them what has been earned, gained, stolen, or granted in the Special World. In Flight, The Road Back is the trek through the wilderness with Adam, seeking the centre of the labyrinth and in it, her father. The Resurrection is the climax of the plot, and it is also the climax of the hero’s development as a character, making it apparent in some way that the hero really has changed. It may come as a test or a sacrifice of some sort and generally there is more at stake than personal happiness. In Flight, the Resurrection comes during the final showdown that Fern has with her father, the results of which I won’t reveal, for those who haven’t yet read Flight.

And finally, the Return with the Elixir, occurs when the hero returns, bringing with him or her a new love, medicine, wisdom, fame, wealth. . .  though, as Vogler states, the 'best Elixirs are those that bring hero and audience greater awareness'. A few days ago we arrived in lovely Aberystwyth; shaken and shocked but not too bruised. However, our journey is by no means over; in fact I feel as if I’m still immersed in the inmost cave, that stage in a story where we are forced to confront our deepest fears. But slowly and surely, the journey is becoming smoother and I’m sure we will ultimately emerge stronger and wiser, having reaped the rewards of embarking on this adventure. For as Campbell explains so beautifully, 'the effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world'.  

 Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Hero's Journey - On Story Structure

The Hero's Journey is not an invention but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design, a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling the way physics and chemistry govern the physical world.'
Christopher Vogler, The Writer's Journey

In the past few posts I've discussed the themes and motifs that are prevalent in mythic stories. This time I want to discuss something even more fundamental, though inextricably linked - mythic structure. As mythologist, Joseph Campbell asserted, stories wear countless costumes yet there is a fundamental commonality between them. Over time the costumes of stories have changed and certainly in western culture, stories are presented in a more complicated way than they once were. Frequent jumping between scenes and characters, and the juggling of time elements in plots presupposes a sophisticated audience with highly developed decoding skills. However, according to Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey, the fundamental structure of stories hasn't changed. Though sometimes more difficult to identify, there is still a three-fold structure in story, as well as the basic components of change and conflict. No matter then, how sophisticated our storytelling has become there remains a basic structure to storytelling that can be traced right back to the earliest stories - and by implication, to blueprints of humanity's common psychology.

Although the terms they use are different, many analysts of story refer to a three-part structure: beginning, middle and end; set-up, confrontation, resolution; and Tristan Todorov's, status quo, change, new status quo. Jung's theory of the process of individuation; ego, soul, self, mirrors in many ways the basic structure of narrative, as does anthropologist, Mercea Eliade's map of shamanic journeying; middle world, underworld, upper world.. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell identified three major stages within the structure of stories - Separation, Initiation and Return - 'separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power, and a life-enhancing return'. Campbell linked these stages closely to the world of spirit and ritual, while Vogler labelled them Preparation, Journey, Return, recognising the potential for these stages to include a broader and more contemporary range of stories.

According to Vogler, most narratives mirror the heroic journey, in that the protagonist is forced out or willingly leaves their ordinary world and must undergo a series of adventures in order to attain a new status. The second stage of the journey involves accepting change, stepping into the abyss with no idea what lies ahead. Risks are taken and if successful there is a reward of some kind. The third stage involves returning to the ordinary world understanding and integrating the reward and using it as is appropriate. A new status quo is reached and the hero has changed in some way. I'll look more closely at Vogler's and Campbell's story stages in a later post.

The plot of Flight, is a linear one, the time line covering the space of a few weeks. There is a clear three-fold structure within the novel. In the beginning Fern has trapped herself in the attic and in so doing, separated herself from the world. The middle is an initiation of sorts, with Fern forced to undergo a journey and to confront her demons. The end is a resolution or a return but it is not circular. Fern is a different person than she was at the beginning and she will never return to the physical or psychological space that she left in order to undertake her journey. Instead she returns to the potential of a life well lived.

However, the structure in Flight is not as simple as the linear unfolding of the outer plot would suggest. The story reaches back across lifetimes and there are layers of themes and patterns that motivate both the plot and the characters. Information is fed into the story in the form of flashbacks and musings that explain Fern's early life and provide motivation for her actions as well as triggers for her development. There are also visions and dreams which are triggered mainly from past life memories and provide a building undercurrent of tension, as well as providing flashes of insight to guide Fern in her journey to release herself from the past and learn how to live again.

There are few stories in which change does not occur. If a character ends in the same physical or psychological situation in which they began it is usually: an existential story which shows a protagonist tossed about by fate, endlessly repeating negative patterns and unable to take control of their destiny; or a comedy (often a satire) in which the protagonist is revealed as a buffoon or a trickster, living outside the rules of society and thus making them visible; or a tragedy, which occurs when a character refuses to accept their call to adventure, is not strong enough to survive the journey, or chooses not to return and share their rewards with others. According to Campbell, 'tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible'. These genres usefully reveal the dangers of becoming stuck caught consciously or unconsciously in negative patterns, just as a fly is caught in a spider's web.

Within the three part structure of story there is inevitably a theory of progress towards a goal, but this is not a closure or end itself, rather it is only one of an endless series of journeys in a perpetual evolutionary process. In the novel, Fern progresses towards a goal, or more accurately, towards a number of goals. Fern is seeking her father, seeking to hunt the hunter and survive. That is the external story, the plot. But she is also seeking to heal herself, to find her place and to live well. These are inner goals, relating to her own development. At the beginning she is unaware of her inner goals, knowing only that she is unwell and that things cannot continue as they have been. It is only through the outer journey that she is able to understand and achieve her inner goals.

At the end, Fern has finished an adventure but is about to start another, the adventure of childbirth and of living within a loving relationship. But eventually the wheel of fortune will turn once again and reluctantly or not, in the sequel to Flight, Fern will undertake another adventure. The universal theme of death and resurrection, of the natural ever-changing cycles of life, does not allow for stagnation. As Carol Pearson writes in Awakening The Heroes Within, 'as soon as we return from one journey and enter a new phase of our lives, we are immediately propelled into a new sort of journey; the pattern is not linear or circular but spiral'. The ability to accept and adapt to change is fundamental to all evolutionary processes, and thus this theme not only appears in the content of stories and myths throughout history and across cultures, but is written into their very structure. And this structure provides a map for each of us as we seek to understand who we truly are. As Vogler wrote, 'I came looking for the design principles of storytelling, but on the road I found something more: a set of principles for living. I came to believe that the Hero's Journey is nothing less than a handbook for life, a complete instruction manual in the art of being human.'

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stepping Into The Future

'Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.'
Anaïs Nin, Diary, 1969

This is a shorter post than usual because I'm on the move, or at least I'm about to be. Good news is that my publisher has lifted the geographical restrictions from my new novel, Flight, so if you are outside of Australia or New Zealand, you can now buy the ebook through Amazon. Unfortunately these restrictions haven't yet been lifted on my earlier novel, Gathering Storm, so that might still be difficult to obtain.

Over the past week or two I've begun packing my study into boxes, sorting my books and notes into three categories: those I no longer need, those I want but can be parted with for a few years, and those that I will need with me in Wales. This last category will take three months to reach me, and as I pack them away I feel more and more bereft, cut off from the knowledge within their pages and afraid that there isn't enough knowledge within me to draw on in their place. I've become reliant on the knowledge of others, subsumed into the academic way of thinking that demands arguments are supported by the weight of history not personal experience. Now, or at least for a few months, I will need to draw on my own reserves. Perhaps this will be good for me. But nevertheless I feel a surge of trepidation as I tape up the last of the boxes and wait for the removal company to collect them.

I look around my empty writing room. I have written novels here, completed my PhD, written numerous blog posts and essays. . . This space and I have got along together, understood each others needs and over time become an effective writing team. But now the comfortable writing space that I have constructed over a number of years is gone. The atmosphere has changed beyond recognition. Noises bounce around the bare walls; it feels colder, less friendly, a room that awaits a new occupant, a new stage in its history. Perhaps I will come back to it one day, perhaps not. Either way, for the next few months I will be writing in strange places: motel rooms, airports, planes, trains, the homes of friends and relatives, a caravan . . . Until I find a new home, I will have to make do, be less precious about shutting the door to the rest of the world, less precious about my writing rituals, and instead carry my creativity with me, drawing on it as and when I get the opportunity. I think back to all the excuses I've used in the past for not writing (see Writing Space and Time) no space (physical or mental), no time, no focus, no confidence. . . all of the excuses inspired by fear: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of confronting what is inside me that needs to be written, fear of writing what I have confronted inside myself. . . I have forced myself to overcome so many fears, rarely understanding their source, only recognising the danger of the paralysis they create.

All this time spent cocooned inside my writing room has meant a good deal of looking inwards, numerous terrifying and exhilarating descents into the psyche to dig up the shadows within. No doubt there will be many more of these descents because life was never intended to be static. And who would want it that way? But for now it feels as if I am suddenly being turned inside out. Forced to emerge blinking into the light. A butterfly? Perhaps not, but transformed nevertheless. And ready to live well in the world. Now I will write wherever I find myself, drawing on that reserve of strength and confidence which we all carry within ourselves. There will always be fear but this time, instead of overcoming it, I will take its hand and together we will step into the future.

Posts on Writer's Block:
Coming Unstuck

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Breaking The Curse: Making Myth Our Own

'All we can do is keep telling the stories, hoping that someone will hear. Hoping that in the noisy echoing nightmare of endlessly breaking news and celebrity gossip, other voices might be heard, speaking of the life of the mind and the soul's journey.'
Jeanette Winterson, Weight

In previous posts I have discussed the ways in which myth enables us to reconnect with a different form of knowing, one that is more intuitive and that embraces mystery rather than fact. Using mythic tools/elements in our writing helps us to create timeless and universal stories, living stories that are steeped in authenticity and that encourage us to grow into individuals. In this post I want to look more specifically at ways myth might be used in story, by rewriting old stories, taking specific elements from myth or even simply using the themes that are predominant in myth.

We can use myth overtly in story by taking the structure and storyline of ancient myth and translating it into a contemporary setting or even a different point of view. In the Myth series Margaret Atwood wrote Penelopoid, the story of Odysseus from the perspective of Penelope and her maids, Alexander McCall Smith rewrote a Celtic myth in Dream Angus and Jeanette Winterson wrote Weight, her own version of the Atlas myth. In the introduction, Winterson wrote, 'the Myth series is a marvelous way of telling stories, re-telling stories for their own sakes, and finding in them permanent truths about human nature.' Winterson wrote Weight from her own situation, stating that 'there is no other way'. So Weight became a 'personal story broken against the bigger story of the myth we know'. When we rewrite myth in this way, we inevitably make it ours and we also see how easily any story can carry the timeless themes of myth. The ancient stories of the battles amongst the Norse Gods might be translated into contemporary stories about the battles between the heads of powerful corporations, or the story of Theseus entering the labyrinth to kill the minotaur can be written as a modern day story set in war torn Vietnam where Captain Willard is given the assignment to journey deep into the jungle (psyche) and capture Kurtz (a renegade Colonel). This is of course, Apocalypse Now, a story that was drawn from Conrad's, earlier novel, Heart of Darkness, but whose themes reflect the mythic journey of Theseus to kill the beast.

While Flight is not based on a single myth, it does contain a number of mythic references: to Theseus slaying the Minotaur in the labyrinth; to Orpheus returning from the underworld with Eurydice but unable to resist looking back; to the Babylonian myth of Gilgamesh and Enkidu; to the Greek myth of Cassandra. . . The characters Cassie and Hector represent Cassandra and her twin brother Helenus who as children were left overnight at Apollo's temple, where serpents licked their ears, endowing them with the power of prophecy. Cursed by Apollo for not returning his love, Cassandra found that although her prophecies were true, they were not believed. Cassandra and Helenus share the power of prophecy, but their skills and methods are different. For Cassandra the prophecy is received intuitively, while Helenus reads signs and portents in the things around him in the natural world, for example, the shape of clouds or the flight of a bird. In Flight, Cassie (like her namesake) is overcome by the knowledge she receives intuitively and is disbelieved by others, whilst Hector is a meteorologist, using computers and satellites to forecast the weather. In a sense, Cassie and Hector represent the extremes of the right and left brain modes, or intuitive and intellectual thought. Together they maintain a vital balance.

Curses, or inherited patterns of behaviour are themes that appear in all three of my novels, and again and again in ancient myth. In Nowhere Man, Ivan is psychologically trapped within patterns that he unconsciously repeats over and over. In Gathering Storm, four generations of women have been trapped by a Romany curse, though in actual terms they are trapped in inherited patterns of behaviour. In Flight, the idea of the curse is explored in mythic terms, in relation to the classic pattern of heroic myths, identified by Otto Rank (see Writing Myth). I did not set out with the idea of writing about a curse, instead it arose about halfway through the novel when I stopped what I was writing and wrote the prologue in a different voice and with an explanation of Fern's origins. Fern is born to a powerful man, her birth is accompanied by a prophecy, she is abandoned and brought up by strangers, unaware of her identity. Myths such as Oedipus and Perseus explore the journey of the child to the father. This is generally an arduous journey, involving great dangers, but the greatest danger lies in the meeting with the father, who may or may not deem the child fit to accept. In myth, the child, if ready for the confrontation, generally brings about the death of the father, often without being aware of their father's identity. This is retribution for the father's unnatural desire to halt change. It is only natural for the child to step into the father's shoes in adulthood, or on a cultural scale, for a new king to step into the shoes of the old king. When this potential is denied by the father then the cycles of life have been denied and stagnation sets in. It is the child's role to force change.

For the most part, Flight follows Ranks pattern of heroic myth. In the opening pages, Simple Simon, a gardener in the Botanical Gardens, utters a prophecy, saying that Fern would cause the death of her father. The prophecy quickly becomes a curse as Fern's father, Eric, responds by trying unsuccessfully to kill his unborn daughter, the prophecy 'eating away at him, turning him into its slave'. Although the curse is delivered to Fern and her mother, it is directed at the father. Fern is the arrow, charged with delivering the curse. Eric is a powerful man, born with great gifts, but he has abused these gifts and this is a crime for which he must pay. There is no humility in Eric, no respect for life, no compassion and no humanity. But there is pride. As always it is hubris which activates the curse.

Psychologist, Liz Greene identifies a number of features that appear consistently in myths about family curses. According to her, the curse is usually linked with the abuse of children in a pattern that repeats itself through generations. 'Each generation has the opportunity to reverse or transform the curse by perceiving and acknowledging the pattern of destructiveness and transcending it, but fails to do so because the individual cannot resist indulging in fear, greed, anger, or the desire for personal vengeance'. Instead, the individual responds instinctively, refusing to acknowledge the pattern or take responsibility and transform it. So, as Greene states, a curse can run its patterns through generations, both inherited genetically and taught through the behaviour of the parents. This is something I had already explored in Gathering Storm, but in Flight I looked at patterns of behaviour that have been repeated through many lives, ideas that are expounded by Jungian psychotherapist, Roger Woolger, who suggests that childbirth triggers karmic residue and the choice of parents reinforces the patterns from one life to the next until the person is finally able to break free of that pattern.. This is exactly what happens to Fern who finds herself abandoned at birth, threatened fundamentally by her birth father and psychologically abused by her adopted father, so that she carries a heavy burden of guilt and grief that parallels the burdens she carries from past lives.

Woolger wrote of 'patterns in remembered lives', explaining that they can become compounded into a repetitive cycle of hatred and revenge, the players 'drawn to each other karmicly' in roles from which they cannot escape'. Fern and Eric are caught in a destructive pattern that has persisted for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, and which always involves an abuse of power and some form of injury to a child. In this life, Fern is once again given the opportunity to break free of that pattern. Through the course of the story, Fern is forced to face memories from a number of lives, but it is not the stories of these lives that are important for Fern's transformation. As the Bear Handler tells her, 'only the patterns matter, for it is in those that you will see the places that you are caught, repeating yourself, lifetime after lifetime'.

A good friend and editor, Teresita White, surprised me by pointing out the parallels between Greene's analysis of the family curse and the events in Flight. 'Paradoxically,' she wrote, 'any attempt to cheat the prophecy usually results in its fulfilment'. Eric tries to destroy his own daughter, which results in her mother hiding Fern from him, by having her adopted and not putting his name on her birth certificate. His violent attempt to kill Fern, results in the shutting down of her psyche, so she does not know who she really is. When Eric seeks Fern out he unwittingly awakens her spirit and bit by bit, her memory. When he attempts to frighten her, he awakens her courage. When he draws Fern to himself he unwittingly invites destruction into what he believes is impregnable. When Eric shows contempt for Adam and his qualities, he sabotages his seduction of Fern. And when he causes another's death, believing he can sabotage the prophecy, he provokes the final confrontation in which he is destroyed. Although Eric does not die, he is left hovering on the border of life and death and his power is spent. In the end, following Ranks patterns of heroic myth, Eric is crushed and Fern is liberated.

Myths remind us that life is all about change, that the wheel of fortune turns and we must flow with it. For Eric the prophecy is a warning. He has become corrupted by power and he must let go of it in order to restore the natural flow of life. Instead, he holds onto his power and the result is a living death. For Fern, the prophecy is a blessing as it gives her an opportunity to free herself from a pattern of behaviour she has become enmeshed in, to find the courage to become a fully conscious individual and rediscover the gifts she had turned away from. But myths also remind us that there are no 'happy ever after endings'. Whatever position we find ourselves in, it is wise to remember that 'this too shall pass', that at any moment the wheel may turn and we will be called yet again, to adventure.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website: