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Catharsis and the Drunk Duck Awards

Banes at 12:00AM, Aug. 11, 2016

I wrote my newspost several days ahead of schedule for the first time ever!

First things first:


The DD Awards are always great fun, and Judges and Awards Presenters are still needed!

Please come over to the Volunteer thread to ask any questions and to volunteer!

Here's the thread:


A writing instructor once gave me brief advice on how to write a story, structurally speaking. It was 1/4 Act One setup, 1/2 Act Two complications and rising stakes (I think), and about 1/4 An Act Three “cathartic ending”.

I knew “catharsis” was a powerful word, and my assumption was that “cathartic” meant “emotional”. I looked it up and it meant “emotional release”. Many years later, now, I encountered the word again and with a much-improved Internet, can now see that it is “an emotional release that leads to purification or spiritual renewal”.

Say what, now?

The catharsis is the emotional climax of a story, where everything the Protagonist has fought and suffered through, all the lessons they've (hopefully) learned are put to the final test.

They face a final challenge and become a new person, the person they needed to become. That “rush” we feel at the end of a great book, movie, or comic is our vicarious catharsis (if I may use two five dollar words in a row), and might be the whole point of telling stories.

If stories are guides, in a sense, that show us how to live (or how NOT to live), then the character's Arc is a metaphor for a path we might follow in our own lives. If we have the wherewithal to figure out where we're going. And the guts to get there.

When you feel that emotional ‘rush’ toward the end of a good story, that's the cathartic moment. That's the best moment in a story.

And maybe that rush represents what we want to ‘get to’ in life. The satisfaction of victory, in becoming the people we want to become. Reaching new milestones in our jobs or careers. Being in relationships or making them work better. Spiritual growth. Or maturity of character. Or ‘really living’. Happiness. Success. Freedom. Being “better”. Authenticity. Being kinder, more honest, more courageous. Whatever we decide to go after.

In the Quackcasts and elsewhere, I often reference the moment in the movie ‘Insomnia’ where Al Pacino's character picks up his police badge and goes after the killer. He decides who he is. I watch that scene over and over whenever I play that movie.

It's the same moment in the first Avengers movie, when Bruce Banner becomes the best version of the Hulk. Or when Sydney faces her tormentor with new strength and determination at the end of SCREAM. Etc, etc, etc.

(More literary or comic examples elude me at the moment, sorry).

We read, watch, and write stories to help us create our own real-life stories.

Or at least that's what I was thinking about today…

May we all reach our cathartic moments!

take care,


And don't forget to remember not to forget to volunteer for the 2016 Drunk Duck Awards!



KimLuster at 3:56PM, Aug. 13, 2016

Why do I always have a couple grammar mistakes with every post I do... Do I drink too much...?!! :D

Ozoneocean at 10:56PM, Aug. 12, 2016

LOL, it's true on ALL counts :)

KimLuster at 6:10AM, Aug. 12, 2016

Haha I knew catharsis would devolve to potty humor!! Dont agree...? You can't handle the truth!!

Ozoneocean at 10:33PM, Aug. 11, 2016

@Irevenant- Catharsis has nothing to do with the Cathars, but the words co e from the same root which is Greek and means "pure", kátharsis means "to purify"... Which you could do through a thorough bowel that toilet scene in dumb and dumber was a cathartic moment XD

bravo1102 at 7:06PM, Aug. 11, 2016

You know I see that image and the Who song from Quadrophenia "Love reign on me" (which is the catharsis of the storyline in the movie and album) comes to mind. Catharsis is in music too.

Banes at 4:47PM, Aug. 11, 2016

@KimLuster, @bravo - Thanks so much! Yes, for sure; the cathartic moment can certainly happen long before the end of the story. A Few Good Men comes to mind, where Tom Cruise's breakdown, followed by his declaration that he will risk his career to put The Joker on the stand is the cathartic moment. There's still the entirety of Act 3 to get through and the case to be completed after that!

Banes at 4:43PM, Aug. 11, 2016

@Paul - Thanks Paul! And thanks for the background!

Banes at 4:43PM, Aug. 11, 2016

@Gunwallace - Indeed! Hip hip and hooray! @irrevenant - It might! It may also relate to Carfax Abbey, which I believe was purchased by Count Dracula. Though I'm not sure how that could be. :D

Niccea at 4:21PM, Aug. 11, 2016

I'm sending out presentation assignments on Saturday. I still have about 20 slots to fill so please sign up.

bravo1102 at 12:48PM, Aug. 11, 2016

The cathartic moment isn't the end of the drama, merely anot emotional change where the character has a new outlook from emotional release that will allow him to face the conflict and resolve the story. In a cops and robbers story it can be when the cop realizes he has to face down the bad guy with his badge not as a vigilante. In High Noon, it's when Gary Cooper resolves to face down the bad guys totally alone no matter the consequences to his marriage, and his wife resolves to stick with him despite being a Quaker. In Gone with the Wind it's when Scarlett shakes her fist at the sky and says she'll never be hungry again. There's still a lot of story left after the catharsis.

KimLuster at 4:56AM, Aug. 11, 2016

Wow banes! Wonderful article - one of your best (and that is saying a lot!!!) In my story, the Godstrain, I suppose we could say Kimber Lee is going through her 'Catharsis Moment' right now, even we're not that close to the end of the story... Like Shakespearean plays, sometimes teh Cathartic Climax occurs in Act 3 instead of Act 5!!

PaulEberhardt at 4:44AM, Aug. 11, 2016

That's one of the neatest explanations of catharsis I've ever read. It's one of the classic Aristotelian concepts, yet it still works perfectly to this day. As those writings of his that survive deal with tragedies only, some people seem to think that the soul-cleansing experience invaribly has to be watching everyone die (segueing into a laundering experience if you were in the front row, because of all that fake blood) - and of course that's not true. That's what I like about your post: you get right down to the essence of catharsis and why it is so important.

irrevenant at 1:39AM, Aug. 11, 2016

Does catharsis have anything to do with the Cathars?

Gunwallace at 12:23AM, Aug. 11, 2016

A hearty cheer for catharsis.

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