As a person who writes and edits stories for a living, I’m always looking for books and other resources that draw on storytelling techniques to broaden my perspective of work and my world. So when I got the opportunity to read What Stories Are You Living? by Carol S. Pearson, I jumped on it.
Full disclosure here for those wondering: What Stories Are You Living? is not strictly a book on the writing process. It’s more of a self-help psychology book, designed to equip the reader to live their best life. But like all books that delve into personalities and our psyche, Pearson’s book examines why we do what we do, who we are, and how this impacts our world. What more could you want from a book that inspires you to write better fiction with truer characters?
Like many self-help psychology books, What Stories Are You Living? begins with an expanded list of Jungian personality archetypes, along with a test — the Pearson-Marr Archetype Instrument (PMAI). The test results reveal which of 12 archetypes you’re most like right now, and which you’re least like. You’ll get a sense of where you fall on the spectrum for all 12 archetypes —Idealist, Realist, Warrior, Caregiver, Seeker, Lover, Revolutionary, Creator, etc.
What I love most about this approach — whether you’re using it for storytelling or for understanding yourself better — is that the PMAI test reminds you that you’re all these things, all 12 archetypes. It’s just that at some points in your life, you’re more like one type than another. And you can use this knowledge of what’s happening in your life right now to figure out what to do next. And you can leverage that to create a sense of purpose that impacts the world. Much like the mythical hero’s journey as envisioned by Joseph Campbell, Pearson envisions these personality types as vital to our own personal hero’s journey in life. It’s a nice mix.
“The more you identify as a hero who forges your own path,” Pearson explains, “the more you will recognize the contribution you can make is uniquely your own and is needed by the world.” In this and other passages, she makes it clear that learning your archetypes sets you on a path of giving back as much as it gives you insight into yourself.
In addition to providing a way to learn about yourself and gaining deeper awareness of your purpose in life, What Stories Are You Living? will be of benefit to writers of fiction as a supplement to resources like The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. The archetypes can be used to help enrich the characters in a novel, an added bonus that Pearson may not have had in mind but that would be supremely beneficial.
That’s what I like most about it for the writers I coach and edit. This book comes in handy in understanding how characters in a story can relate to one another and the overall plot. And if it helps you understand yourself and set yourself up for success in real life too — all the better.