Arkhe Writing Exercise
What was the impetus for your current writing project? If you cannot remember the exact moment when the idea struck, what would you say is the primary intention for this work as you create it now?
If you’re having trouble answering this question, don’t worry. This is a difficult question for many writers, and it should be. We often do not know what the primary intention is as we are writing the work. In fact, it is in the act of writing the work that we begin to unveil the intention, sort of like trying to quiet our conscious selves so that our subconsciouses can speak to us.
Whether or not you subscribe to Jung’s archetypal (primordial) theories, we can agree that we hold within us a vault of symbols we’ve developed from the beginning of our lives. Some of these symbols (archetypes) are shared among many or even all consciousnesses and subconsciousness simply because we live in a shared world. For instance, we would be hard-pressed to find a person who does not understand what a cross signifies or thumbs up, a smile or a frown.
Arkhe in literature can be fun with which to play. Your reader will have primordial expectations and so you can align with these expectations and/or challenge them at the most fundamental levels. For instance, if your character smiles when s/he is angry, this is a challenge to the arkhe. The first time the reader understands this about the character, it then becomes a shared secret and anticipation that other characters will not yet understand. By turning the character’s smile/arkhe into an irony, the narrative simultaneously deepens in characterization and draws the reader intimately into the narrative. When creating unique attributes for your characters, playing with arkhe’s can be the most effective as they challenge the reader’s primordial preconceptions.
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