"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving." Albert Einstein
So on top of all of the screenwriting and drama writing books that I have read which taught me a wealth of valuable information about writing, there were four more puzzle pieces that lead my long search to a emergent surprise that allowed me to see how to write.
1. The first was Aristotle's original idea to map a story. Only I think he mapped the wrong thing. His mapping is important but secondary.
2. Second, Nancy Duarte and her book, Resonate, showed me that what's at stake could be mapped over time.
3. Third, it was Toy Story producer, Ralph Guggenheim, that taught me C programming when we were both at NYIT's Computer Graphics Lab, as part of the emerging of the field of computer graphics. I had taken math in high school and college but never understood the concept of mathematical functions. Ralph showed us how a circle could be mapped over time onto a sine wave by graphing it. Finally, I got it because I could literally see it. Little did I know, (Dramatic Irony, check out "Stranger than Fiction" for the full reference.) that this would be a crucial piece of the puzzle.
The hero's journey is a circle. But what does it map? It maps a journey over time and as Chris Vogler pointed out in his book, The Writer's Journey, that journey is a psychological one. It's just not in a form that I can use to help me write. But sine waves are the key, that and another math concept Ralph taught us- fractals.
BLOGGER NOTE: Do not be afraid, there is no math involved in this theory.
4. The discovery that stories are woven sequences of cause and effect. And it was my Vocabulary of the Media Critic class, in which Dr. Alwyn Scott told us if we wanted to be filmmakers, we better learn about semiotics. This was back in 1980 and he was right. Though semiotics I discovered there are many types of causality beyond the pure physical causality of a Rule Goldberg machine.
5. The fifth and final piece of the puzzle came from Peter Dunne's book, Emotion Structure: Creating the story beneath the plot. From his excellent book I learned that character's use psychological defenses to try to achieve what they want. I won't go to much into this here. Don't want to give away too much now, but this book was very helpful in allowing me to see story causality.
Finally, in answer to the rhetorical question that I heard in my mind, "Why could I see it when no other writer could for over 2000 years?" Read that sentence again for the answer.
So the first mapping of a story is to map that there is a problem. I'll leave you to think about that question.