From the book SHOW ME THE LOVE! All Kinds of Love for All Kinds of Stories by Pamela Jaye Smith & Monty Hayes McMillan
Got Love? Got enough Love? Got the right kind of Love?
No matter your genre or style, a good story needs some kind of Love to engage us emotionally.
Too often people think Love is just the romantic or sexual kind. But wait – there’s more.
This series explores the Mythical and Psychological aspects of different types of love, plus suggestions for the Shining Moment, Cinematic Techniques, and Symbols.
Join us for a journey through many different kinds of love that can enrich your characters, compel your plots, and move your audience. Our articles have addressed Love of Adventure, Chivalric Love, Love for Animals, Interspecies Love, Best Friends Forever, Breaking Up, Love of Land and Country, Love of Family, Warrior Bonding, Love of Death and Destruction, and Love of Art.
This article looks at Love of Community.
Civil society is a self-imposed structure held together by those individuals dedicated to its vision, which is to improve the living conditions and quality of life of the community.
In effective stories centered around the love of community there is a very real danger that can tear apart or destroy the fabric of that civil society. In High Noon the town gives up its responsibility to support the sheriff, who is defending their town from iconic bad guy Frank Miller. The same thing happens with the League of Shadows in Batman’s Gotham. In the comedy In and Out, prejudice against gays threatens the otherwise close-knit and generally accepting community.
In these stories the quality of life in the community can often entail your protagonists fighting against profit-driven corporations and special interest groups such as big oil, big agriculture, big pharma, the weapons industry, etc.
Civil society is “We the People” in action.
Examples in Psychology
Stories about communal activities were among the very first stories ever told; early cave art shows humans hunting in groups. The art was typically in places where groups of humans gathered to hear stories, and the flickering fires created the first animation art. See Werner Herzog’s illustrative documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
The human species is by nature gregarious, though there are always hermits, misanthropes, sociopaths, and downright psychopaths, but for the most part people like to congregate and share their experiences of living and loving, suffering and hope.
Though it does not apply to loners, love of acceptance by the group is a powerful driver for most people, as exemplified in clubs, cliques, tribes, and gangs.
Isolationism does not support survival. Out on the vast Great Plains of the American Midwest, most people wave greetings when meeting each other on the often empty highways, even if it’s just a raised finger (no, not that one; that’s for the freeways). A person never knows when they’ll break down out on that lonely road and need someone’s help. Unfortunately, this practice seems to have gone away in many parts of America and the world.
Examples in Myth and Legend
Because the yearning for the lost Golden Age is universal, you find stories about the perfect community in mythologies all around the world.
In addition to Camelot, the British Isles also gave us the lost lands of Avalon and of Lyonesse, sunk beneath the seas to the west. Hawaiians have a similar legend, as do the Hopi and the Aztecs. In the Bible the Promised Land is called the land of milk and honey. The Australian Aborigines’ Dreamtime is paradisiacal as are the origin myths of the African Bantu. The impressive ruins of Great Zimbabwe in southeast Africa are still not fully understood. Mohenjo-Doro in western India was the first planned city, with sewers and toilets with seats.
Explore further in the many books and websites about lost, ancient, mythical places – keeping in mind that they are a projected pattern of our own ideals. Or maybe our ideals are a result of some ancient passed-down or genetic memory of the perfect civil society.
Examples in History and Current Events
No matter when or where your story takes place, you can find inspiration from events and characters in real-world civil societies, from the glorious to the failed.
Athens – the city-state that founded democracy and thrived for many hundreds of years. Tenochtitlan – the Aztec city-state, also highly developed with aqueducts, steam baths, and astronomical observatories whose calculations remained unrivaled until the early 20th century. Singapore – their civil society was planned and enforced and has created a very prosperous city-state with a high quality of life. The Spanish town of Marinaleda is a thriving example of a civil society based on socialist principles.
War typically results in the devolution of civil society, particularly for the losers. Current day ISIS in the Middle East is using rape, kidnapping, and beheadings to break down family and community structures in many areas of Syria. The same also applies with the Boko Haram in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Climate change carries with it the same potential for destruction, with mass migrations away from droughts, floods, extreme cold, heat waves, super-storms... they’re all happening now and all affect both local and extended systems of civil societies.
Examples in Media
In the Mars trilogy books – soon to be a TV series – Kim Stanley Robinson portrays the creation, sustaining, and sometimes dissolution of different kinds of civil systems on Mars: nomadic, matriarchal, industrial- and consumer-centered, self-sustaining ecologically centered, and blends of the above.
In Mad Max, Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road the first movie is about the breaking up of civil society, the second is about total chaos and survival, and the third is about beginning to rebuild civil society, albeit rough and weird. In the fourth we see a civil society harshly repressed and a few rebels willing to break away and try to affect positive change.
Downton Abbey is one family’s experience of civil society undergoing change from a rigidly stratified class system to a more free-flowing one and the problems that ensue.
Groups of people Beehive Knots Joined hands Empty streets
Key Element – The Shining Moment
An individual stepping to the front and taking a leadership role, usually entailing self-sacrifice for the greater good. In The Avengers there’s a scene in Stuttgart where Loki orders a crowd of citizens to kneel before him. An old German man stands up and says, “Not to men like you.” Loki brags, “There are no men like me.” The old man bravely counters, “There are always men like you.”
Show people being drawn to a person or a place as if they are nails drawn to a magnet. This is often best done with an overhead shot. Start close on the special place or person then pull back and up until you have the screen filled with the action of people streaming together.
The domain shot is a different type of environmental shot; it is a character’s point of view of the realm in which the story takes place, such as Batman standing atop a precipice looking out over Gotham, Superman flying over the city, Tony Stark looking out over his domain from the top floor of the Stark Building, and in a much larger scope, in Thor where the guardian of the Bifrost sees everyone in the universe.
Civil society in action doesn’t have to be a democracy like America, it can be social democracies as in Europe, it can be village groups, clans, tribes, neighborhoods in big cities, rural communities, etc. It’s about individuals accepting personal responsibility and engaging with the group to bring about the greater good for the greater number.
Love of community can be the plot or a sub-plot; it can be the driver of a character’s actions or it can be the background against which your story is played.
Exercise #1 - Awareness
Name both a utopia and a dystopia from myth, media, or real life and explain why you selected them.
Exercise #2 – Writing
Write a scene about a community overcoming a problem that they had not been able to solve individually.
Write a scene where the community is not working together or supporting each other, such that responsibility falls onto one citizen rather than on them all.
© 2015 Pamela Jaye Smith & Monty Hayes McMillan
Pamela Jaye’s BOOKS & SEMINARS can be found at the Writers Store and on MYTHWORKS, where you can also learn more about her consulting, writing, and pitching services. Mythic ChallengesAlpha Babe Academy
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Get more great advice from Pamela & Monty in their book
Show Me the Love