Monday, October 29, 2018

Recycled Storylines or Mythic Mash Ups: A Look at A STAR IS BORN and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

We went to see Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera, at the Buell Theater in downtown Denver and I was surprised by how captivating it was. I'm usually not a fan of sequels and remakes. It's difficult to surpass or even come close to equaling the power of the original version of a story and although I do appreciate recycling, it feels lazy when it comes to storytelling. 

A couple of weeks ago we saw the latest remake of A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and I was surprised to learn that it is the fourth version of the story. I remember well the Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand adaptation but was surprised to find there was a 1954 Judy Garland rendition and that the original was filmed back in 1937.

It got me thinking about what these two stories have in common. There is the age old trope of the mentor creating a work of art and falling in love with it. My Fair Lady is another example of this. It was based on a 1917 play by George Bernard Shaw called Pygmalion which became a movie of the same name in 1938. Pygmalion was inspired by a story of the same title from Ovid's Metamorphoses about a sculptor who fell in love with one of his statues. Ovid was a Roman writer who died in AD 17 so it's a pretty old story.

There there is the even older Greek myth of Eros, the god of love, and Psyche. The Oracle of Delphi predicts that Psyche will marry a terrible serpent. She is whisked away and taken to the castle of Eros (aka Cupid in the Latin version, son of Aphrodite) where she is quite happy, though disturbed by the fact that her husband will not show his face to her. He warns her that she can never look upon him. Her sisters come to the castle for a visit and tell her that her husband must be the terrible serpent foreseen by the oracle. Psyche lights a candle to look upon Eros' face and is amazed by his beauty, but when he awakes and realizes her betrayal, he flees. Psyche must undergo three difficult trials including a nasty trip down to Hades, to prove her love and regain the trust of Eros.

In later versions of the story the man appears to be a beast (as in Beauty and the Beast and Phantom of the Opera) and his true inner beauty must be revealed. Though in the case of the Phantom he also has a murderous dark side as well. In other stories the man appears to be beautiful (as in a Star is Born) but then his darker side is revealed.

The truth is that almost all stories are recycled to some degree. Some writers believe there are only three basic plot lines. Others argue for six and still others for more but most agree there is a finite number. I believe that the reason the above stories are successful is because they resonate with stories we know and love. Check out my tab for The Secret Language of Stories to see how I address story plotting when I write my books and teach story structure to my students.

Check out this article  on How Many Basic Plots Are There?

When we left the theater we were greeted by the street performers below. The whole day was magical!

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Autumn is here and that means Annual Conferences for many large educational organizations. Below you will find my top three conference survival tips and a FREE recipe for Conference Survival Bars.

I was recently in San Diego talking about Story Frames. Later this month I will be presenting at the New Mexico State Speech and Hearing Conference in Albuquerque and after that I'll be at IDA. If you happen to be at the International Dyslexia Association Language and Literacy Conference in Connecticut later this month, check out my Friday (F3) session on "The Science and Art of Stories."

The following tips will help you get the most out of your conference:

1. Buy the Conference Recording - I know, you already spent $500 on the conference fee. Why would you spend another hundred bucks or more on the recordings. The obvious reason is because you can't  attend all of the sessions, but there is another important reason. If  your brain is like mine, you can't possibly absorb all of the information of the few sessions you do attend. By purchasing the audio version you can listen to them in manageable pieces during your drive to work and retain  much more of the information.

2. Plan for Downtime and See the City - This relates to item #1. Your brain can only absorb so much information at any given time and it needs rest. Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT advocating that you get your employer to pay your conference expenses, ditch all the sessions to go to the beach, then return just in time to collect your CEUs. That would be unethical. But consider fitting in a late afternoon trolley tour of the city or dinner on the waterfront. Don't go all the way to New Orleans and then not see the French Quarter.

3. Pack Your Own Breakfast - Don't be late to that important Keynote Address because you are stuck in the Starbuck's line with 300 other conference attendees. Make your own gluten free/ high protein breakfast bars at home and bring them with you. See recipe below:

These bars are miraculous because they freeze well, travel well, and fill you up. Kids even love them. They are dairy free, low carbohydrate, high protein, and gluten free/paleo- unless you use oats/peanut butter. They are NOT low calorie. They contain lots of good fat that keeps you going for hours.

2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest (1 tsp. dried orange or lemon peel may be used)
I cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup flax seed or flaxseed meal
I cup dried fruit- chopped (or use small varieties like currants or raisins- try to use varieties low in sugar)
1 cup unsalted nuts- chopped
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey (may use more or less honey to taste) drizzle on top or mix in

topping (optional) Dark chocolate squares and peanut butter

Stir together flour and soda with a whisk to combine.
Stir in shredded coconut, flax seed, nuts, and fruit.
Whisk eggs. Melt coconut oil and add to eggs. Add honey. Combine wet and dry ingredient, combining thoroughly
The mixture should be moist.
press into greased 9x13 inch pan.
Drizzle honey on top and spread with a knife to coat the top evenly
Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 min.
Cool and slice into 2x2 inch bars.
Keep in an airtight container or freeze.
Yield- 12 bars

NOTE: Before I bake these I like to spread peanut butter  on top. About halfway through the baking cycle I add squares of dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher. Sprouts has dark chocolate in bins). When this is melted I use the back of a spoon to spread it across the bars.