The symbols of the two masks, one smiling and the other sad, comes from the Greek culture of theatre and drama ‘Comedy’ and ‘Tragedy’. Comedy meant that a story had a good ending, like William Shakespeare’s, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” or Allison Schroeder’s screenplay, “Hidden Figures.” On the other hand, tragedy always had a bad ending; again, we see Shakespeare’s, “Romeo and Juliet,” or Director Paul Greengrass’ movie, “United 93.”
What all good stories have in common is their ability to change perspective. A good lawyer will work hard to change the jury’s perspective of his client. “Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life.” Joni E. Tada.
This brings us to our next genre—The Quest. The purpose of the Quest is to build tension in the story. Demonstrate how your character overcomes his challenges. End with delivering a satisfying conclusion, which creates a shift of your audience’s perspective. In the end, the real power in a good story is the ability to continue to change the perspective of your listener or reader.
Dan Brown is a master at weaving history and urban legends into powerful stories. His stories have the ability to alter his audience’s perspectives by presenting new definitions on symbols ranging from Masonic symbols to the rituals in the Catholic Church. The Biblical writers of the New Testament likewise did not just introduce Jesus but have continued to change human perspectives for the past 2000 years.
The Quest, as a storytelling tool, works best when the stories are true and personal. It is about stories of true human adventures, trials and tribulations, and overcoming the odds; transferring the emotions from setbacks and successes to the listener or reader. It begs simple questions, “What would I have done in that situation?” “Could I do the same in my own situation or quest?”
There is a story about an elderly woman who boarded a train. After a few stops she noticed a father and his young son, who looked like he was probably nine years old, board the train. They took their seats directly in front of her.
Soon, the son started talking loudly to his father, telling him about the clouds he saw outside and buildings and trees the train was passing by. The father listened to him and nodded encouragingly.
After a while, the elderly woman got annoyed by how the young man was speaking, and learned forward and said to his father, “Excuse me, sir, but have you considered taking him to special doctor?”
The father smiled at her, and replied: “Actually, we’re just coming back from the doctor. You see, my son has been blind since birth, and this is the first day he’s ever been able to see.”
You see, it’s about taking your listeners\readers on a journey’s quest reaching a high point of tension or emotional buildup, like a mountain peak, then suddenly dropping them, like a steep slope, not negatively, but more of an awakening—a new perspective.