Sprouting Your Own Green World with Paul Coccia

by Allyson Tojcic

Conjure in your mind an image of a lush, virgin forest rich in biodiversity and you have in your possession a powerful and endlessly adaptable metaphor for where your characters go to change. In his WCYR presentation, writer Paul Coccia discussed the concept of the Green World and its counterpart, the Old World, as these pertain to literature, explaining that the renowned literary critic Northrop Frye first conceived these ideas. The Green World is characterized by freedom and the capacity for renewal. In the Green World, a character finds the space and opportunity to have wishes and needs fulfilled. Conversely, the Old World is about oppression and staleness: think old school parents who keep you perpetually grounded.

What’s most fascinating and important for the writer is the Green World can be anything. For Dorothy, Oz; for Harry Potter, Hogwarts; for Thelma and Louise, a road trip; for Julia Child, France. The Green World may be art or music or an internal notion that enables a new path or a person who gives someone else the gift of seeing themselves as more than they think they are. The Green World can even be winter, as long as there is promise for the character to dream and to be transformed.

As appealing as the Green World is, it is not Shangri-La. The writer should pay close attention to pitfalls when considering it for character or plot. For instance, danger and high stakes abound in the Green World. Tragic characters destined for demise, such as Romeo and Juliet, are not intended to be redeemed.

As tempting as it might be to create a Green World and simply leave our characters there (or ourselves for that matter), its purpose as a literary device is to serve as a catalyst for change and to have the story’s characters return to the real world, with all its foibles, so they can live reinforced by what was gained. Paul explained that staying in the Green World too long can be deadly (think of the call to behead Alice during Alice in Wonderland’s tea party), and that the Old World can destroy the Green World (for example, the sensuous Kit Kat Club in the movie Cabaret is destroyed by Nazism). Also, magical beings like fairies will always be of the Green World and are never intended to cross the divide to reality because the forest is their only home.

The concept of the Green World invites us to think archetypally: what might our hero and other characters want and need? What milieu can we construct that will allow them to transform? The Green World is one world among many that is within a writer’s purview to create.

Finally, Paul made recommendations that will enhance your own Green World kit:

  • Use lists to keep track of issues and topics when deciding which characters will do well and when.
  • Consider what characters take with them into the Green World and what they leave with.     
  • Read widely outside of your preferred genres, as we tend to revert to our strengths.
  • Substitute “writing exercises” (Old World) for “experiments” (Green World) to embrace the invitational and alive quality it represents.
  • Get uncomfortable and fail big!

These are some books Paul mentioned that embody the concept of Green World you might want to check out:

On the Line by Paul Coccia and Eric Walters

Cub by Paul Cocker

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

Unravel by Sharon Jennings

He Who Dreams by Melanie Florence

In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen

My Life in France by Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child

Upcoming Events

Collaborating for Success: No Writer is an Island with Mark Leslie Lefebvre – March 6, 1:30pm to 3:30pm

Writing Unforgettable Kids’ Books with Maaja Wentz – March 24, 7:00pm to 9:00pm, FREE

Genre Bending: Bending the Rules to Make Genres Your Own with Alyx Harvey – April 24, 1:30 to 3:00pm

Annual General Meeting and Board of Directors Election – April 24, 3:00pm to 4:00pm, FREE

Poetry Workshop: Secrets of Creativity in Life and Art with Patricia Keeney – May 15, 1:30pm to 4:00pm

The Genesis of Stories: Idea Mining with M.C. Perron – May 26, 7:00pm to 9:00, FREE

How to Focus and Write for the Reader with Jerry Amernic – June 5, 1:30pm  to 3:30pm

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