So, I’ve finished the assessment read-through for Perceval’s Secret. The next step, Step 3 in the revision process: revise. Use what I’ve learned about the manuscript to fix the issues about Evan and enrich the language. I’ve been thinking a lot about Evan, his background, his experiences in life, what he believes he wants, how he sees the world through the lens of the America in which he grew up. At the same time, I was reading Paulo Coehlo’s parable novel The Alchemist. He tells the story of a young shepherd in Spain who has a recurrent dream at night that leads him to follow that dream of treasure to North Africa and the pyramids in Egypt. Along the way, he meets people who give him suggestions, challenge his thinking, try to stop him, and help him. Underneath the story is a layer of metaphysical action that involves the boy’s “personal legend,” how the universe will conspire to help him achieve what he wants, and then how the universe will provide progressively more difficult tests until he perseveres and achieves his goal. A very nice twist at the end reminded me a lot of The Wizard of Oz.
It struck me that I can apply Coehlo’s “personal legend” to Evan. I understand Coehlo’s concept as being akin to Joseph Campbell’s expression “following your bliss.” It is the impulse from deep within that drives an individual to live, experience, and seek to fulfill his destiny or purpose. So, I see Evan’s “personal legend” as making music in freedom. Evan sees his “personal legend” as the same thing. But I also see that freedom can have different meanings.
Evan understands his desire as freedom from oppression, a political freedom, a human rights freedom. I had also seen that meaning, too. However, after the assessment read-through, I now also see other possibilities, based on Coelho’s parable. One is love. Another is to know oneself and to be authentic. So, not only freedom to love but freedom within love. The freedom to be yourself. The freedom to be a part of the world and connected to all living things.
One of the effects of living under oppression is for the individual to adopt psychologically protective mechanisms to help him cope and to preserve his true core self. Once he’s escaped the oppression, those coping mechanisms hide his authentic self from the world and are an obstacle to being himself. This is only one way individuals cope with oppression and loss of freedom. Two other ways are to become an oppressor or become a resister. Evan has definitely adopted the first way of coping, so becoming aware of and letting go of those coping mechanisms will be necessary before he is truly free.
But I’ve jumped ahead to the other novels in the series. In this first novel, it is like his first foray into the world to find his treasure or bliss. I’ve conceived of the five novels in this series as each having a problem for Evan to solve or an obstacle to overcome in order to move on to the next novel. In the first novel, his goal is political freedom and the problem he must solve is how to get away from the Americans (and his father). He’s already made choices in the backstory that have brought him to Vienna, Austria and Perceval’s Secret follows him as he makes choices to secure his freedom.
I had no idea when I began Coelho’s book that it would help me gain a fresh perspective on Evan Quinn and his journey through the Perceval series. And the journey in Coehlo’s book is the same as 3-act dramatic structure, underscoring how this narrative structure is a part of human life, not just a way to tell a story.