Structure in folklore and mythology
I found a book with many writers that had come together to share their theories on the structure and creation of a myth/ fictional story, ‘Soviet Structural Folkloristicts Volume 1’. It was very interesting to see different ways people can look into the structure of a story that I never knew existed.
The first writing was using a basic math structure to plan the story that went like this:
Ph = Pv + 0.1
At first I thought that this was going to be very complicated, and although the further into the book I got the more complicated the idea got, but given the time to look at this in detail it is a very practical and efficient way of looking at things.
The idea was that P = power, H = hero and V = Villain. So the rule being that the power of the hero is always the power of the villain plus a small amount.
The logic of this is that if the power of the villain in a story is low and the power of the hero is high there would be less dramatic interest.
For example Ph = 0.8 and Pv = 0.2
There would not be much of a rivalry and the villain would be defeated with ease. People like to see a challenge, a struggle, a close call between the two sides where either outcome is possible. So to create this, the power of the villain would almost match that of the hero.
So when planning your story and the characters, the idea would be to create your villain first and decide how much power they will have whether high or low, so then you know how to build your hero around that. Rather than creating a really powerful hero and trying to create a villain that would match their powers. When people initially think of creating a hero, you think of the most powerful unbeatable character you can think of, because in our mind that is what a hero is, but that thinking of a villain that would match this would be a hard task and the story would be almost ridiculous. When you create your villain first and the ‘problem’, tasks that the hero would have to overcome then you can start thinking of ways this can be done, as hard as it might be to overcome, in a way becoming the hero yourself in mind, the problems you may have thinking of ways to overcome the task may be problem the hero has themselves during the journey, each outcome should be looked into.
The hero or the villain are very rarely alone, they have such things and people around them as helpers, advisers, donors, objects or a retinue. The theory written in the book for this was:
The h in Ph would stand for (hero+ helper+ donor+ magical object)
The v in Pv would stand for (villain+ retinue)
Because the people and objects surrounding the hero or villain are what makes them.
So if a hero’s strength is for example 0.8 this can be distributed between all their aspects, and the same for the villain. And not necessarily does the hero or villain have to be the strongest of their team. A table to show this would be:
Tale 1 Tale 2 Tale 3
Hero 0.2 0.4 0.5
Helper 0.3 0.1 0.0
Donor 0.1 0.1 0.1
Magical Object 0.1 0.1 0.1
Ph (power of the hero) 0.7 0.7 0.7
In this table you can see in tale one the helper would be the most powerful, tale two the hero has quite a significant amount of power to his allies and tale three the helper is none existent, these are just a few variables to the situation.
This was just the introduction to this theory, which further along can goes into detail of even small objects and significant actions throughout the story with mass variables which they write can be produced randomly with a computer. Given the numbers for the overall situations and characters, you have a base for your story that you now only have to fill out each areas sticking to the guide lines. A very interesting way of looking at story writing and its structure, following the ‘laws’ you could literally set out your possible actions throughout your story and roll a dice to determine actions and choices along the way.
1. The law of repetition of dynamic elements of the tale which slows down and diversifies its general course;
2. The law of the center of composition (folktales may have one or two heroes who either have equal rights or not);
3. The law of categorical or grammatical formation of the plot.
Nikiforov suggests analysing actions on the model of word-formation. According to him the following actions can be differentiated:
1. Prefix actions of great variability;
2. Root-actions, nearly invariable;
3. Suffix and flectional actions.
Propp’s thesis that the function and dynamic role of the protagonist are the only constants in folktale.
Recurrent elements of a fairy-tale propp discovered 31 such functions:
• Departure of the hero.
• Violation of the interdiction.
• Discovery of the villain (opponent).
• Information about the hero given to the villain.
• Deceitful trickery.
• Complicity therein.
• Harmful act (villainy) or lack (manqué).
• Mediating action.
• Beginning of counteraction.
• First function of the donor.
• The hero’s reaction.
• Receipt of the magical agent.
• Spatial transference.
• Identification of the hero.
• Liquidation of the lack.
• Return of the hero.
• Unrecognised arrival.
• Claims of the false hero.
• Recognition and exposure.
This list alone been basically a layout for a story, not every aspect is needed but if each section filled out you have your story.