Answer & Explanation:For this week’s discussion please read the following two articles:Retelling Another Person’s Story Can Make It Your Own (Links to an external site.)From “Avatar” to “Jurassic Park,” “Beowulf” to “Jaws,” All Stories Are the Same (Links to an external site.)Then, in light of this week’s focus on organization and structure, please share your thoughts on either or both of these articles.


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Retelling Another Person’s Story Can Make It Your Own – WSJ
1/9/16, 12:11 PM
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Retelling Another Person’s Story Can
Make It Your Own
Repeatedly retelling an incident can trick your brain into believing it was your own
Close to half of college students participating in a survey admitted to retelling another person’s
story as if the experience had happened to them, according to a report. PHOTO: KYLE T.
Updated May 25, 2015 8:45 p.m. ET
Close to half of college students participating in a survey admitted to
retelling another person’s story as if the experience had happened to
them, according to a report in Applied Cognitive Psychology. Most
students said they had borrowed stories more than once.
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Retelling Another Person’s Story Can Make It Your Own – WSJ
1/9/16, 12:11 PM
The most common reason for borrowing and retelling stories was a
desire to own a funny or entertaining anecdote, the survey found.
Repeatedly retelling an incident can trick your brain into believing it
was your own experience, researchers said. Previous studies have
suggested borrowing or plagiarizing ideas and information can occur
Researchers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas recruited 447
students, 20 years old on average, and about 75% women. The
participants completed an online questionnaire about their storytelling behaviors and experiences and reasons for adopting other
peoples’ memories.
Nearly 60% of
the subjects
Dance Classes May Not Give Kids Enough Exercise said they had
borrowed a
complete story,
a detail or both. Men were more likely than women to borrow entire
stories or parts of stories. Of those who admitted retelling a story as if
it were their own, 31% said they realized later the story belonged to
someone else.
More than half of the students reported hearing one of their own
stories being plagiarized and 57% said they had disagreed with others
over who owned a story.
The biggest reason for adopting stories, given by 38% of the
respondents, was because they found the tales interesting, or because
the adopter was confused over the source. Among other reasons:
Students felt stories are better told in the first person and that it is
more convenient to borrow a story than explain its origins. Only 8% of
the students felt an adopted story would enhance their status.
Borrowing stories may be related to cryptomnesia, in which people
reproduce information from other sources as if it were their own,
probably because they didn’t process it deeply enough, said the study’s
lead researcher Dr. Alan S. Brown. In contrast, story borrowers are
aware of the source but often forget it, he said.
Caveat: Story borrowing was self-reported by students and couldn’t be
Title: Borrowing Personal Memories
Salt suppressant: Taking potassium supplements with meals may help
to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in people who are unable to
lower their salt intake, suggests a study in the American Journal of
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
7/27/16, 1:17 PM
All Stories Are the Same
From Avatar to The Wizard of Oz, Aristotle to Shakespeare, there’s one
clear form that dramatic storytelling has followed since its inception.
JAN 1, 2016

A ship lands on an alien shore and a young man, desperate to prove himself, is
tasked with befriending the inhabitants and extracting their secrets. Enchanted
by their way of life, he falls in love with a local girl and starts to distrust his
masters. Discovering their man has gone native, they in turn resolve to destroy
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
7/27/16, 1:17 PM
both him and the native population once and for all.
Avatar or Pocahontas? As stories they’re almost identical. Some have even
accused James Cameron of stealing the Native American myth. But it’s both
simpler and more complex than that, for the underlying structure is common not
only to these two tales, but to all of them.
Take three different stories:
A dangerous monster threatens a community. One man takes it on
himself to kill the beast and restore happiness to the kingdom …
It’s the story of Jaws, released in 1976. But it’s also the story of Beowulf, the
Anglo-Saxon epic poem published some time between the eighth and 11th
And it’s more familiar than that: It’s The Thing, it’s Jurassic Park, it’s Godzilla, it’s
The Blob—all films with real tangible monsters. If you recast the monsters in
human form, it’s also every James Bond film, every episode of MI5, House, or
CSI. You can see the same shape in The Exorcist, The Shining, Fatal Attraction,
Scream, Psycho, and Saw. The monster may change from a literal one in
Nightmare on Elm Street to a corporation in Erin Brockovich, but the underlying
architecture—in which a foe is vanquished and order restored to a community—
stays the same. The monster can be fire in The Towering Inferno, an upturned boat
in The Poseidon Adventure, or a boy’s mother in Ordinary People. Though
superficially dissimilar, the skeletons of each are identical.
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
7/27/16, 1:17 PM
Our hero stumbles into a brave new world. At first he is transfixed by
its splendor and glamour, but slowly things become more sinister . . .
It’s Alice in Wonderland, but it’s also The Wizard of Oz, Life on Mars, and Gulliver’s
Travels. And if you replace fantastical worlds with worlds that appear fantastical
merely to the protagonists, then quickly you see how Brideshead Revisited,
Rebecca, The Line of Beauty, and The Third Man all fit the pattern too.
When a community finds itself in peril and learns the solution lies in
finding and retrieving an elixir far, far away, a member of the tribe
takes it on themselves to undergo the perilous journey into the
unknown …
It’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, Morte D’Arthur, Lord of the Rings, and Watership Down.
And if you transplant it from fantasy into something a little more earthbound, it’s
Master and Commander, Saving Private Ryan, Guns of Navarone, and Apocalypse
Now. If you then change the object of the characters’ quest, you find Rififi, The
Usual Suspects, Ocean’s Eleven, Easy Rider, and Thelma & Louise.
So three different tales turn out to have multiple
derivatives. Does that mean that when you boil it down
there are only three different types of story? No.
Beowulf, Alien, and Jaws are ‘monster’ stories—but
they’re also about individuals plunged into a new and
terrifying world. In classic “quest” stories like
Apocalypse Now or Finding Nemo the protagonists
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
7/27/16, 1:17 PM
encounter both monsters and strange new worlds. Even
“Brave New World” stories such as Gulliver’s Travels,
Witness, and Legally Blonde fit all three definitions: The
characters all have some kind of quest, and all have
their own monsters to vanquish too. Though they are
tories Are a Living Thing’
superficially different, they all share the same
framework and the same story engine: All plunge their
characters into a strange new world; all involve a quest
to find a way out of it; and in whatever form they choose
to take, in every story “monsters” are vanquished. All, at some level, too, have as
their goal safety, security, completion, and the importance of home.
But these tenets don’t just appear in films, novels, or indeed TV series like
Homeland or The Killing. A 9-year-old child of my friend decided he wanted to
tell a story. He didn’t consult anyone about it, he just wrote it down:
A family are looking forward to going on holiday. Mom has to sacrifice
the holiday in order to pay the rent. Kids find map buried in garden to
treasure hidden in the woods, and decide to go after it. They get in
loads of trouble and are chased before they finally find it and go on
even better holiday.
Why would a child unconsciously echo a story form that harks back centuries?
Why, when writing so spontaneously, would he display knowledge of story
structure that echoes so clearly generations of tales that have gone before? Why
do we all continue to draw our stories from the very same well? It could be
because each successive generation copies from the last, thus allowing a series of
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
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conventions to become established. But while that may help explain the ubiquity
of the pattern, its sturdy resistance to iconoclasm and the freshness and joy with
which it continues to reinvent itself suggest something else is going on.
Storytelling has a shape. It dominates the way all stories are told and can be
traced back not just to the Renaissance, but to the very beginnings of the
recorded word. It’s a structure that we absorb avidly whether in art-house or
airport form and it’s a shape that may be—though we must be careful—a
universal archetype.
Most writing on art is by people who are not artists: thus all the
—Eugène Delacroix
The quest to detect a universal story structure is not a new one. From the Prague
School and the Russian Formalists of the early 20th century, via Northrop Frye’s
Anatomy of Criticism to Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, many have set
themselves the task of trying to understand how stories work. In my own field it’s
a veritable industry—there are hundreds of books about screenwriting (though
almost nothing sensible about television). I’ve read most of them, but the more I
read the more two issues nag away:
1. Most of them posit completely different systems, all of which claim
to be the sole and only way to write stories. How can they all possibly
claim to be right?
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
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2. None of them asks “Why?”
Some of these tomes contain invaluable information; more than a few have
worthwhile insights; all of them are keen to tell us how and with great fervor
insist that “there must be an inciting incident on page 12,” but none of them
explains why this should be. Which, when you think about it, is crazy: If you can’t
answer “why,” the “how” is an edifice built on sand. And then, once you attempt
to answer it yourself, you start to realize that much of the theory—incisive though
some of it is—doesn’t quite add up. Did God decree an inciting incident should
occur on page 12, or that there were 12 stages to a hero’s journey? Of course not:
They’re constructs. Unless we can find a coherent reason why these shapes exist,
then there’s little reason to take these people seriously. They’re snake-oil
salesmen, peddling their wares on the frontier.
I’ve been telling stories for almost all my adult life, and I’ve had the
extraordinary privilege of working on some of the most popular shows on British
television. I’ve created storylines that have reached over 20 million viewers and
I’ve been intimately involved with programs that helped redefine the dramatic
landscape. I’ve worked, almost uniquely in the industry, on both art-house and
populist mainstream programs, loved both equally, and the more I’ve told
stories, the more I’ve realized that the underlying pattern of these plots—the
ways in which an audience demands certain things—has an extraordinary
Eight years ago I started to read everything on storytelling. More importantly I
started to interrogate all the writers I’d worked with about how they write. Some
embraced the conventions of three-act structure, some refuted it—and some
refuted it while not realizing they used it anyway. A few writers swore by four
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
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acts, some by five; others claimed that there were no such things as acts at all.
Some had conscientiously learned from screenwriting manuals while others
decried structural theory as the devil’s spawn. But there was one unifying factor
in every good script I read, whether authored by brand new talent or multiple
award-winners, and that was that they all shared the same underlying structural
In stories throughout the ages there
is one motif that continually recurs—
the journey into the woods to find the
dark but life-giving secret within.
By asking two simple questions—what were these traits; and why did they recur—
I unlocked a cupboard crammed full of history. I soon discovered that the threeact paradigm was not an invention of the modern age but an articulation of
something much more primal; that modern act structure was a reaction to
dwindling audience attention spans and the invention of the curtain. Perhaps
more intriguingly, the history of five-act drama took me back to the Romans, via
the 19-century French dramatist Eugène Scribe and the German novelist Gustav
Freytag to Molière, Shakespeare, and Jonson. I began to understand that, if there
really was an archetype, it had to apply not just to screenwriting, but to all
narrative structures. One either tells all stories according to a pattern or none at
all. If storytelling does have a universal shape, this has to be self-evident.
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
7/27/16, 1:17 PM
When it comes to structure, how much do writers actually need to know? Here’s
Guillermo Del Toro on film theory:
You have to liberate people from [it], not give them a corset in which
they have to fit their story, their life, their emotions, the way they feel
about the world. Our curse is that the film industry is 80 percent run
by the half-informed. You have people who have read Joseph
Campbell and Robert McKee, and now they’re talking to you about the
hero’s journey, and you want to fucking cut off their dick and stuff it in
their mouth.
Del Toro echoes the thoughts of many writers and filmmakers; there’s an
ingrained belief for many that the study of structure is, implicitly, a betrayal of
their genius; it’s where mediocrities seek a substitute muse. Such study can only
end in one way. David Hare puts it well: “The audience is bored. It can predict
the exhausted UCLA film-school formulae—acts, arcs, and personal journeys—
from the moment that they start cranking. It’s angry and insulted by being
offered so much Jung-for-Beginners, courtesy of Joseph Campbell. All great work
is now outside genre.”
Charlie Kaufman, who has done more than most in Hollywood to push the
boundaries of form, goes further: “There’s this inherent screenplay structure
that everyone seems to be stuck on, this three-act thing. It doesn’t really interest
me. I actually think I’m probably more interested in structure than most people
who write screenplays, because I think about it.” But they protest too much.
Hare’s study of addiction My Zinc Bed and Kaufman’s screenplay for Being John
Malkovich are perfect examples of classic story form. However much they hate it
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
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(and their anger I think betrays them), they can’t help but follow a blueprint they
profess to detest. Why?
All stories are forged from the same template, writers simply don’t have any
choice as to the structure they use; the laws of physics, of logic, and of form
dictate they must all follow the very same path.
Is this therefore the magic key to storytelling? Such hubris requires caution—the
compulsion to order, to explain, to catalogue, is also the tendency of the trainspotter. In denying the rich variety and extraordinary multi-faceted nature of
narrative, one risks becoming no better than Casaubon, the desiccated husk
from Middlemarch, who turned his back on life while seeking to explain it. It’s all
too tempting to reduce wonder to a scientific formula and unweave the rainbow.
But there are rules. As the creator of The West Wing and The Newsroom, Aaron
Sorkin, puts it: “The real rules are the rules of drama, the rules that Aristotle
talks about. The fake TV rules are the rules that dumb TV execs will tell you; ‘You
can’t do this, you’ve got to do—you need three of these and five of those.’ Those
things are silly.” Sorkin expresses what all great artists know—that they need to
have an understanding of craft. Every form of artistic composition, like any
language, has a grammar, and that grammar, that structure, is not just a
construct—it’s the most beautiful and intricate expression of the workings of the
human mind.
Did God decree an inciting incident
should occur on page 12, or that there
were 12 stages to a hero’s journey? Of
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From ‘Avatar’ to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Jaws,’ All Stories Are the Same – The Atlantic
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course not.
It’s important to assert that writers don’t need to understand structure. Many of
the best have an uncanny ability to access story shape unconsciously, for it lies as
much within their minds as it does in a 9-year-old’s.
There’s no doubt that for many those rules help. Friedrich Engels put it pithily:
“Freedom is the recognition of necessity.” A piano played without knowledge of
time and key soon becomes wearisome to listen to; following the conventions of
form didn’t inhibit Beethoven, Mozart, and Shostakovich. Even if you’re going to
break rules (and why shouldn’t you?) you have to have a solid grounding in them
first. The modernist pioneers—Abstract Impressionists, Cubists, Surrealists, and
Futurists—all were masters of figurative painting before they shattered the form.
They had to know their restrictions before they could transcend them. As the art
critic Robert Hughes observed:
With scarcely an exception, every significant artist of the last hundred
years, from Seurat to Matisse, from Picasso to Mondrian, from
Beckmann to de Kooning, was drilled (or drilled himself ) in
“academic” drawing—the long tussle with the unforgiving and the real
motif which, in the end, proved to be the only basis on which the real
formal achie …
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