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.
Love of adventure, land, community, family, friends, warrior bonding, love of pets, love of learning, love of death and destruction, interspecies love, transformative chivalric love….
Join us for a journey through many different kinds of love that can enrich your characters, compel your plots, and move your audience. Our first five articles addressed Love of Adventure, Chivalric Love, Love for Animals, Interspecies Love, Best Friends Forever, and Breaking Up.
This month we’ll look at “Love of Land and Country”.
One of the most basic loves people have is a love of their homeland. By bringing out this aspect you can deepen your characters and give them even more to care about, fear to lose, fight and even die for. These stakes are high and unmistakable. It can be an effective reflection about how they feel about other characters – either by comparison or contrast.
We have a specific, direct connection to the land because it is what we are made of. The land is in our bones and in our teeth, as well as our hearts. As is often a plot point in scientifically-slanted procedural dramas, deductions about a victim can be made from spectro-analysis of the various minerals and other markers in their bodies.
Ecologically speaking, the developed world seems to have lost touch with this basic love of the land. We are refusing to admit that there may be troubles in paradise. A character engaged with ecology can not only be an integral part of your story but can also make a point about your personal perspective on the planet, resources, etc. The current trend of apocalyptic stories are set against a damaged environment.
Example in Myth
Most cultures look back with yearning to some Golden Age when they were living in a better place and everything was better, from the weather to the crops to the neighbors (or the lack thereof). This idealization of the actual physical earth as the source of all that was well before and which could be well again engages some driven and sometimes desperate part of the human psyche that imagines and desires perfection.
Examples in History and Current Events
Ecology and the environment motivate many people. “Tree-huggers”, deep ecologists, and land rights organizations stand up to rampant and often destructive development.
Naturalists are people who not only love nature but love to be out in it, as do Stephen Maturin in the Master and Commander series, Grizzly Adams, and Jeremiah Johnson. The Australian Aborigines have a phenomenally close connection with the land, explored in both The Last Wave and Australia.
Examples in Media
- Lawrence of Arabia.
- Out of Africa.
- Post-apocalyptic stories such as the Mad Max film series.
- In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Count travels with dirt from the homeland in his coffin.
- The humans in Battlestar Galactica are searching for their homeland — Earth.
- Wide expanses of landscape.
- A rock, pebble, plant.
Key Element – the Shining Moment
- Kissing the earth.
- Planting their feet on the ground again. Maybe even barefoot.
- Gazing with love and awe across the landscape.
- Shooting “on the deck” (on the ground) conveys a close connection between your character and the land or it can convey the character of the land itself. Dry barren earth, sprouting plants, small animal holes, the spongy carpet in a three-canopy jungle, crunching snow, etc.
- Environmental shot: wide angle, hold it a long time, let the land speak for itself, fuse the viewer into the land, allow your audience enough time to absorb the entire environment.
- The 1971 Oscar-winning documentary Sentinels of Silence features a stunning 18-minute helicopter ride over the ruins and landscape of the pre-Columbian Mayan empire.
Because it is such an integral part of being human, bringing this love of land into your characters makes them more sympathetic and identifiable. Millions of people have fought and died over claims of ownership; there is a very rich well of history and current events from which to pull dramatic conflict in this type of love.
Exercise #1 – Awareness
Answer these questions for one of your characters. What do you think of when you think of your place of origin? Does it draw you or repel you? What would you be willing to do to protect your homeland?
Exercise #2 – Writing
Write some dialogue where one character is explaining their love of the land to another character who just doesn’t get it. E.g. a fifth-generation rancher to a big-city girl.
© 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 Challenges Alpha Babe Academy
Get help writing your TV pilot with Dan Calvisi’s webinar
The 1-Hour TV Pilot Beat Sheet: From ABC to AMC to HBO to Netflix