Dr Eric Miller's notes

for the presentation of his paper,

"Story and Storytelling

in Storytelling Therapy and

Expressive Arts Therapy"

on 17 Feb 2017

at the Annual International

Expressive Arts Therapy Conference

at Women's Christian College, Chennai


The actual paper is here




We should not necessarily direct our clients to have their story creations fit into any one formula or pattern.


The process of composing a story could begin with a memory or fantasy of a smell, feeling, image, idea, etc.


Story formulas are based on -- and perpetuate -- particular presuppositions about reality.


Mouli Lahad's Six-piece Story Method (6PSM) is a formula.  It involves a main character overcoming obstacles. 


Problem and solution.  Wanting something.  Coping mechanisms.


This is a valid and useful approach -- but it is not the only approach. 




Six-piece Story-method (6PSM) --


1) Imagine a character (the hero or heroine of the story).  Where does he/she live?

2) Does this character have a task/mission?  If yes, what

is it?

3) Who or what can the main character call on for help in relation to the task/mission?

4) Who or what obstacle(s) stands in the way of his/her carrying out the task/mission?

5) How might the character cope with this obstacle(s)?

6) What ending does the client give to the story?




Previous milestones (and other character and story formulas) in this field include:


1894 -- The Golden Bough, by Sir James Frazier, Scottish Social Anthropologist.


1909 -- Myth of the Birth of the Hero: A Psychological Interpretation of Mythology, by Otto Rank, Austrian Psychoanalyst.  Originally published in the German language.


1928 -- The Morphology of The Folktale, by Vladimir Propp, Soviet Folklorist and Structuralist.  Originally published in the Russian language.


1937 -- The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth, and Drama, by Lord Raglan, British Anthropologist.


1949 -- The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, USA Mythologist.




James Frazier focused on the need for the young hero to overthrow the old king, and so renew the kingdom and the cosmos in a cyclical manner. 


Otto Rank focused on the hero’s conflicts with his father.


Vladimir Propp focused on 32 functions, which can be reduced to

1) There is a peaceful and happy home,

2) The home is broken-up by an external villain; and

3) A hero from the shattered home defeats the villain and helps to re-formulate a new home.


Lord Raglan focused on 22-step mythic-ritualist hero archetype culminating in the hero achieving a realisation (an apotheosis, a revelation) about self and the cosmos.


Joseph Campbell focused on "The Hero's Journey".

1) The hero’s community is oppressed, dull, and lifeless (for examples: people are unable to have children, and there is no rain);

2) The hero goes on a journey and obtains a sacred object; and

3) The hero returns to the community with the sacred object which he uses to revitalise the community.


One popular story structure is,

The "Well-made Play" (Novel, etc), consisting of

Exposition, Conflict, Crisis, and Resolution.




Assessible aspects of story and character could also include the main character's --


* Fear of, tolerance for, and/or love of the unknown. 

* Curiosity.

* Love of communication with others.

* Love of adventure.

* Love of new experiences.

* Love of travel.

* Urge to align him/herself with powers of the cosmos.

* Urge to liberate his/her people from oppression.

* Favorite activities.


These are personality traits.  Characters and stories could be built around these personality traits, just as the 6PSM builds characters and stories around imagining and coping with obstacles, blocks, challenges, difficulties, setbacks, etc.


If the personality trait of the ability to cope with obstacles in a story's creator can be assessed by Mouli Lahad's 6PSM approach, then the types and intensity levels of these other personality traits in a story's creator could also be assessed.




Regarding the word, "hero":


This word implies that the character is doing great things, helping society as well as him/herself.  The word implies possible divinity and/or nobility (aristocracy).  This is a lot of baggage.  At times, we (with clients. etc) might just speak of a "main character" instead of a hero.