I’m starting off with a disclaimer: this post is a little long and philosophical. Stay with me, though. It’s an important part of my world view and I’d really like to share it with you.
Some years ago while laid up with a broken ankle I read Robert McKee’s screenwriting book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting . It has informed the way I read, write, and even see the world ever since. It’s dense but well worth reading if you’re interested in story structure; I wish I had read it in college because I’m a very left-brained person, and it helps my creative mind to have a way to structure my creativity. But I digress.
The part that stays with me everywhere, with every book I read, and even as I participate in temple ordinances, is McKee’s idea of the negative of the negative. It’s tricky to explain. Here’s a brief attempt, from a post I wrote on my personal blog back then:
A protagonist and his story can only be as intellectually compelling as the forces of antagonism make them. . . . by “forces of antagonism” we mean the sum total of all forces that oppose the character’s will and desire. . . We pour energy into the negative side of a story not only to bring the protagonist and other characters to full realization… but to take the story itself to the end of the line, to a brilliant and satisfying climax.” (page 317-18)