Obligatory Scenes in Visionary Fiction – guest post by Stefan Emunds

What are genres? Genres are conventions that manage reader expectations. Choosing the right genre for your story – before writing it – is a crucial decision. When you think of genre, think RIO – Reader Interest Optimization.

Genre expectations have grown over a long time, hundreds of years. Each genre has its unique conventions and obligatory scenes. An action story needs to have fights or it isn’t action. A love story needs to have a kiss and a love confession scene or it isn’t a love story. Stories need to comply to the conventions of its genre or it won’t work.

While common genres are already carved in stone, Visionary Fiction has remained somewhat fluid. The first thing that comes to mind is that Visionary Fiction has an additional storyline beside the A-story and B-story, the plot and character development. This is the spiritual storyline, the S-story. Though interwoven with the B-story, illustrated by the Hero’s Journey, the S-story can and should stand on its own. “But other stories have a morale too,” you may want to object. True, but one can sum up a common story’s morale in one sentence, while an S-story claims a major part of the work and contains a few visionary or spiritual morals.

Balancing the A, B, and S-storyline is exactly that – a balancing act. How much should an author assign to each? Paolo Coelho’s books seem to have a 80/20 ratio, 80% A and B-story, and 20% S-story. The book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is the opposite – 20/80, whereby the A- and B-story serve as catalysts for the spiritual body of thought revealed.

Many Visionary Fiction stories have a journey in common, like The Alchemist or The Celestine Prophecies. But this seems a popular setting or theme rather than a convention. This is similar in science fiction, which is not really a genre, but rather a setting for various genres, like action, horror, or thriller. From a strict editorial point of view, Visionary Fiction isn’t a genre either. We can write a Visionary Fiction action story, a Visionary Fiction love story, and a Visionary Fiction thriller. But unlike Science Fiction, Visionary Fiction defines an inner setting or theme.

Obligatory Scenes in the Visionary Fiction Genre

Each genre has its specific global story values around which its scenes oscillate. For example, the values of love stories are love and hate, the values of action stories are life and death.

What is the global story value of Visionary Fiction? How about common sense and enlightenment? Or relative knowledge and universal wisdom? All Visionary Fiction stories require that the protagonists move from common sense and sensuality to enlightenment. Is this the core convention of Visionary Fiction – showing readers a way to spiritual awakening and enlightenment?

What are the obligatory scenes of Visionary Fiction? This is where the S-story comes in. Obligatory Visionary Fiction scenes convey spiritual principles and wisdom to the reader. Are there essential spiritual truths that need to be in every S-story?

Here is a list of basic spiritual principles that lend themselves to Visionary Fiction:

  • Spiritual awakening: A glimpse at the higher self and the world’s miraculosity
  • The great work: A phase of meditation, learning, and spiritual practices
  • Access to other realities – through visions and/or astral projections.
  • Illumination: A spiritual regeneration that comes with a full realization of the higher self
  • The acquisition of spiritual powers
  • Cosmic consciousness

Other Visionary Fiction authors weigh in:

Visionary Fiction author Robin Gregory suggested a scene that glorifies the power of the heart. We don’t live with the left and right side of the brain alone. The heart is the place where our higher self thrives and spiritual awakening takes place.

Visionary Fiction author Rea Nolan recommends a scene where the hero/ine confronts the choice to enter a mystical realm or not, to obtain what s/he needs. There are other realities out there and people need to know about them. This appears particularly important for a scientific oriented society.

Visionary Fiction author Jenna Newell Hiott thinks that Visionary Fiction requires a scene wherein the main character(s) experiences an expansion of consciousness. Here, the difference between the B-story and C-story becomes obvious. While characters can always hone their intelligence through experience, spiritual growth requires initiation. Without meeting the Goddess we can’t experience spiritual awakening.

 

Don’t think of conventions as restrictions. They form the framework in which you fabricate your stories. No net and no lines – no tennis. You need to be both – an artist and crafts(wo)man to produce stories that work. Take the reader for a breathtaking journey, but don’t forget the compass.

 

 

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BIO:

Stefan Emunds loves to write visionary fiction, but also non-fiction, screenplays, and poems when time allows. Stefan was born in Germany and enjoyed two years backpacking in Australia, New Zealand, and South-East Asia in his early twenties. For almost three decades, Stefan has pursued a spiritual career at B.O.T.A., a modern mystery school teaching the arcana of Tarot, Qabalah, Gematria, esoteric Astrology, and Alchemy. After getting married, Stefan chose a necessity-career in the telecommunication industry. Since then, he has worked as a business development manager in Europe, Middle East, and in Asia. 2012 Stefan kick-started a hobby career as a writer. So far he wrote a novel about the possibility of prophecy in modern times, Feng Shui, a short story and short essay about the Second Coming of Christ, a remake of the Medieval romance Gawain and the Green Knight, and a contemporary-mystical rendering of the first three chapters of the Genesis. Besides writing books, Stefan also maintains the spiritual blog www.nuchrist.com and the inspirational blog www.dailyinspirer.com.

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14 Responses to Obligatory Scenes in Visionary Fiction – guest post by Stefan Emunds

  1. “While common genres are already carved in stone, Visionary Fiction has remained somewhat fluid.” Yes, this is the challenge for VF writers and one of the reasons the Visionary Fiction Alliance exists today–to specify what VF is all about and encourage the embracement and evolution of this genre. I like the way you state that Visionary Fiction has an additional story line beside the A-story and B-story–the S-(spiritual) story. Thanks for your contribution in fine tuning the definition of visionary fiction.

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  2. Stefan, thank you! I think your article is the beginning of an extremely important discussion, not so much of a VF definition, but what scenes are inherent in VF, what is it that sets VF apart as a genre.

    Romance has the lover’s happy ending, a crime/mystery keeps the secret of ‘who done it’ until the end. What is it that distinguishes VF?

    While the storytelling elements are traditional, what is predominant is the transformation and evolution of the protagonist’s consciousness, most often through spiritual , paranormal, or metaphysical experiences. I’d love to hear other VF authors weigh in on this!

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    • Yes, I think much has been said about what defines VF here, but this article does a good job of looking at the mechanisms of what we might find in a VF story structure.

      And what distinguishes VF? I firmly believe it’s the human potential/growth in consciousness, as agreed at this site and elsewhere.

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    • Victor Smith says:

      Have to agree with your conclusion, Jodine. What is predominant is “growth in consciousness.”

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  3. Robin says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful post, Stefan. I have to admit that I’m not as concerned with meeting the expectations of a category of fiction as I am bound to subvert them. If I must choose one, visionary fiction gives me the freedom to draw from multiple literary forms and render a more holistic vision.

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  4. Great blog and useful to me as I think about genre. I had trouble categorizing my first novel, I CALL MYSELF EARTH GIRL because it didn’t seem to fit clearly in any one genre. Then I learned about Visionary Fiction and realized that is where it fits. This blog clarifies some things for me. Thanks!!

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  5. Robin says:

    Well done, Stefan. I agree that VF includes either one or more of the principles you name. And as you know those qualities alone are not enough to make a novel satisfying to a reader, no matter how profound the transformation is. A number of authors I’ve encountered haven’t even known what I’m talking about when I mention “structure.” In order to legitimize VF, we must adhere to principles that guide narration, plot, character arcs, etc. We must educate ourselves on the craft of writing with the same dedication we reserve for spiritual practice. Thank you!

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    • Victor Smith says:

      Agreed, Robin. Great writing goes without saying, and I believe we have come a long way in getting that point across in the years the VFA has existed. But we need the constant reminder.

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  6. This analysis takes us a step further in defining what Visionary Fiction is. I think it inherits what occult fiction established, but it’s a bit broader.

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  7. reanolanmartin says:

    So useful to provide structure for a genre that defies space/time. Visionary elements are abstract, and our job is to articulate them in concrete terms, which in many cases requires entirely new images and vocabulary. We’re getting somewhere when we identify essential scenes. Thanks so much for a thoughtful blog!

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  8. Eleni Papanou says:

    “The first thing that comes to mind is that Visionary Fiction has an additional storyline beside the A-story and B-story, the plot and character development. This is the spiritual storyline, the S-story. Though interwoven with the B-story, illustrated by the Hero’s Journey, the S-story can and should stand on its own.”

    Excellent analysis, and I appreciate how you identified three separate threads, along with the mention of the hero’s journey. There are definite spiritual aspects to that particular structure, particularly the apotheosis stage. The underlying VF theme is a spiritual hero’s journey, which should indeed get it’s own “S thread.” This is a great way to analyze VF stories. Identifying the arc of the S thread could reveal a lot about a VF story and also be used as a template to write reviews. You’re on to something here!

    “From a strict editorial point of view, Visionary Fiction isn’t a genre either. We can write a Visionary Fiction action story, a Visionary Fiction love story, and a Visionary Fiction thriller. But unlike Science Fiction, Visionary Fiction defines an inner setting or theme.”

    This is likely why it’s hard to get VF listed in book stores as a genre. It can fall under so many different genres. I always felt VF is an umbrella genre. It’s that S thread that you mentioned that makes a story VF.

    Great post!

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  9. Victor Smith says:

    An excellent contribution to the why and how of VF, Stephan. The more we together explore the nature of our “genre” in this way the closer we come to defining what we do with our writing and why we do it. It struck me, as I was reading this piece and from other efforts in the past like defining VF on Wikipedia, that in coming to know what Visionary Fiction is we are coming to discover our own higher Self, quite a bonus for just writing stories.

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