Growing up in the 1980’s, there was no shortage of bad life examples in the world of fiction. My grandmother watched soap operas, and one of those soaps was The Young and the Restless.
The show used to annoy me as a teenager, with me constantly asking, “What is this?” I avoided it as much as I could, but every once in a while, I would be in the vicinity of the television and get offended.
Nikki Newman had looks, killer hair, and money, but all she did all day was mope in her mansion pining away for Victor Newman.
Did Victor ever mope in his mansion pining away for Nikki?
Are you kidding me?
He was the tycoon about Wisconsin with the power moustache, having numerous steamy love affairs with all sorts of women while he ran his ever-growing empire. The basic story always seemed to be the same, except every time I caught a snatch of the show, Victor was with a different woman. He came from nothing just like Nikki, but yeah, he had a full and fabulous life.
Nikki always moped in her mansion. She cried a lot over Victor.
She had no care about her legacy.
Because she was a plot device: she was there to show what a smouldering catch her ex-husband was.
I never cared for it, but that is a trap of the Patriarchal style: there really can only be The One and the rest of the characters help tell the story of that One.
The Matriarchal style doesn’t play favourites: no one said you can only have One. That frees up the ways we can tell a story. There is cooperation, not competition among characters.
That means the character as plot device is definitely out of the question, but if each character is to have their own *purpose*, how do you tell the story without confusing the reader?
By having every character have their own mission or even missions. They all have their life puzzles to solve and their own stories to tell. That means each character does not just stand around, wasting their life. Their time matters and they are to make the most of it. Their space also matters and they are out to make it the best space it can possibly be.
It is not just the hero who gets to change and grow: all characters get the same right.
They all also have the same responsibility of making their time and space count.
In the matriarchal style, Nikki Newman would not be moping in a mansion pining for Victor. That is a waste of life activity. She would begin to question herself: why am I really hung up on this guy who repeatedly says out loud that he can’t trust women?
That could be her starting point: she would the begin to explore her surroundings, looking for ways to challenge herself because if all she does is pine, then she is taking away time from other characters.
She would soon realize if the relationship was all that, they’d still be functionally together. Something was seriously off, and perhaps if she found something productive to do, she could better understand herself. She could hit the target on her first try, but maybe it would take a whole bunch of tries, but she’d get closer to understanding herself with each attempt.
The matriarchal style is all about nurturing characters the way a gardener nurtures a garden: plants and trees are supposed to grow under the watch of the caretaker. A stagnate character means an author is holding a character back, stunting their potential.
And when you have a character who doesn’t learn or change, you are implying that we can get away with the arrogant refusal to admit that we have faults and flaws.
In a matriarchal style, every character counts. You are making a map, and every point matters. Every character has a story to tell, but in order to do that, each character has to make the most of their time and space.
And there is a meta-lesson in that style: that we all matter. We all count. We aren’t the insignificant and anonymous masses we think we are and that we don’t need a paper crown to be important, appreciated, or essential to the entire planet. We don’t have to wait for a convenient time or a better space. We can start at any time and place without needing the validation or approval of others to make our lives have meaning.
There is no flying under the radar. We must make the most of our time. We must make the most of our space. We must think about tomorrow, and not wallow in the past or just live aimlessly in the present.
That means finding our purpose in this great, big spinning orb we call our home. We all have a different meaning of life and one of the greatest challenges and joys is figuring what our own meaning of life happens to be.
To me, my meaning of life is straightforward: I am here to make life maps with love, truth, bravery, comedy, honesty, wisdom, independence, and kindness with my work as an artist and scientist. I am here to love and nurture goodness with my every roar.
Even the Earth spins with a purpose. Even our world has its own meaning of life: to host life as it sustains it. Every inch of this globe matters and has a meaning and a legacy.
It is amazing that our own planet can serve as one of the greatest lessons for us and it stares us in the face every moment. Every tree and drop of water is absolutely essential. Every cell is here for a reason as is every anonymous atom. That glorious and powerful mosaic of nature gives us another day and then another in an infinite and eternal universe.
Time and space are on our side and we are given the beautiful gift to make the most of both, so long as we both appreciate them as we push the boundaries of them.
The Matriarchal storyteller is the one who can grasp that wonderful fact and then spin the fables that can do the same for those who read them.
That is the reason I never tire of writing stories; there is no end to exploring all the incredible meanings of life and I am determined to map as many as I can in my lifetime.