Life Force Storytelling


Life Force Storytelling


            “Life Force Storytelling” is my newly created genre for film and literature, inspired by George Lucas’s Star Wars film franchise, specifically his creation of THE FORCE—defined as “a mysterious energy field created by life that binds the galaxy together.” Life Force Storytelling (LFS) is essentially a character-driven genre that includes three core tenets:

1.      Reincarnation

2.      Life-Altering Love (inspired by people you’ve known/loved in a past life)

3.      The Interconnectedness of Everyone and Everything in the Universe.

For eons humanity has wondered about what happens when we die. Do our souls continue? Are we reborn? Stories that explore these questions offer massive audience appeal. From crowd-favorites like A Dog’s Purpose (2017), to arthouse indie hit Wings of Desire (1987), to the popular adaptation of bestselling novel, Cloud Atlas (2012), these films explore how reincarnated souls travel through time where the actions of individual lives impact the lives of others throughout the past, present, and future. But most especially, these stories show how everything is connected. Likewise, LFS focuses on profound character-development as opposed to relying solely on violent conflict as its defining tentpole. In fact, this genre avoids violent conflict-centered action or plotlines, focusing instead on prioritizing story elements of theme, characterization, and interconnected / intricately woven slice-of-life segments to create a cohesive story.

            So why invent this new genre? One of my favorite filmmakers, once said:

“There should be a point to movies…you pass on some facts and rules, and maybe a little bit of wisdom.” 

~ George Lucas


            Mr. Lucas also said:

                                    “Education is the single most important job of the human race.”


With these thoughts in mind, I must state unequivocally that the main point of “Life Force Storytelling” is to find oneself—and to find love, in oneself and in others. A more refined main point is to “know oneself,” or to discover that which is Universal in all humanity. Consider this:

“And it seemed to him then that every human was always looking for himself, in bars, in railway trains, in offices, in mirrors, in love, especially in love, for the self of him that is there, someplace, in every other human. Love was not to give oneself, but find oneself, describe oneself.”


James Jones, From Here to Eternity


As an undergraduate studying Philosophy at North Texas State University in 1981, my first exposure to the essence of knowledge was Professor John Miller’s lecture on Socrates’s edict, “Know thyself.”  The most obvious self-knowledge I possessed at that young age included being a middle-child and an obsessive peacekeeper. That was my role in my family beginning as early as a toddler and continuing through to my current relationship as a widow, finding a second chance at love as a senior citizen. But in this relationship, my aversion to conflict has become so blatantly obvious, that my partner recently pointed out to me, “you’d rather walk away from a fight, without exception, even if you believe you are in the right.”

            He’s absolutely correct. I loathe conflict—in myself, with others, and especially in my writing. So the easiest way to resolve this late-in-life-revelation regarding my aversion to conflict is to act. Refuse to fight just for the sake of fighting. Instead, take action regarding my writing—and if I cannot find success in the current “violent conflict-driven marketplace,” expand the marketplace, rather than reject my writing. Therefore, my major goal with LFS is to create a nonviolent genre of storytelling as my reaction against the normalization of increasingly violent content, and the ensuing violence it fosters in our society.

Truthfully, I’m not so arrogant as to believe that I will revolutionize modern-day storytelling. In fact, as many of my recent detractors have pointed out, what makes stories interesting or compelling is when characters disagree with each other (man vs. man); or where characters are confronted by institutions, beliefs, or traditions with which they passionately disagree, or they simply are confronted by hostile surroundings (man vs. the environment; or man vs. nature). Most certainly we cannot omit stories where characters struggle with their own inner demons (man vs. himself.) All these different types of conflict offer situations for compelling storytelling— it’s true, but what I find objectionable is the manner in which conflict is addressed.

I’ll repeat this: Conflict in and of itself isn’t harmful. It is the way in which conflict is resolved that I find troublesome. I recognize that problem-solving or conflict-resolution is a deep-seated trait of being human. What I object to is using violence to resolve conflict. Whether it’s something as overt as shooting one’s opponent, or something as subtle as screaming or yelling when speaking calmly would be much more “resolution-oriented” but is also way less “dramatic” or “intense.” Sacrificing peaceful conflict-resolution for a more intense or “violent” conflict-resolution has no place in society today. We’re already at the tipping point where artists need to become hyper aware of the types of “conflict-resolution” they are putting out into the Universe, because of our current state of over-exposure to media violence. Thus, when artists or storytellers offer violent conflict resolution which overrides all other elements of storytelling (like plot, theme, character-development, etc.) in favor of simply creating scene after scene of conflict-driven setups or obstacles the characters must struggle to overcome, this must stop. This crisis in storytelling didn’t happen overnight. It evolved as human beings evolved.

Today’s storytelling, in my humble opinion, has reached a crossroads—the question being, “Will humanity overcome the side effects and/or the culmination of escalating violence in modern-day storytelling?” Or will humanity allow “media violence” to destroy our society, in as much as it has already created (especially in the United States) a “killing culture” where the proliferation of gun violence in modern-day media content is fueling our epidemic of mass-shootings, escalating violent crime, and a decaying sense of “core values.”

            Violent, conflict-driven money-makers of the past, in books sales or box office ticket sales, tend to define the types of art that artists create today. But how long can we continue to “value” this type of conflict-driven art? Or have the societal effects of the over-proliferation of gun violence in America finally reached the point where the public will push back and say, “Enough! We don’t want to watch any more violent films or read any more violent literature. We deserve better than this!”

            To my point, I believe that viewing violent acts, (whether in print or in film, television, or other media such as video games), causes people to react with heightened emotions, leading to anger and violence in their own behavior. This is not just my opinion. There is an enormous amount of research that supports the causal relation between viewing media violence, and reacting with violent acts IRL, such as the following:

Individuals with a long-term MVE (Media Violence Exposure) are more likely to experience stronger anger, thereby leading to an increase in aggression in the provocation situation.

(Han, L et al, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 106, May 2020. “The long-term effect of media violence exposure on aggression of youngsters.”)


But even if you take the hardline stance that artists should only create art that moves them, regardless of the unintended effects it may have on their audience, if artists are to survive and have the means to create their art, then most artists need to create work that can earn them a living. And this is where my desire to create a new genre of storytelling comes into play, because it’s time for us as consumers to demand a new type of storytelling. What does this mean, especially with the advent of AI-generated storytelling? Will AI usher in a trend of producing content based on what is already out there, by modeling or predicting what a human writer would say next given these prompts (most of which include violent/conflict-driven content)?

If so, it becomes critical to respond with intentionality and purpose. If enough American consumers boycott the irresponsible marketing of unsafe and unregulated AI technology, then tech companies and entertainment companies will have to comply, whether they initially wanted to or not. After all, businesses are market-driven, and customer buying trends matter. Power to the people. Think before you buy. Our very survival as artists could depend on it. Especially if we hope to augment human writing with AI-generated content, instead of revolting against—then being swept up in—content which relies on violent blockbusters from the past to create new content. Not only is it imperative for humans to create a new kind of content, it’s also imperative for consumers to demand it—i.e. if we stop buying violence, then the studios, etc. will stop producing it.

For those reasons, I propose that LFS will rely on character-driven, theme-based storytelling as opposed to relying primarily on intense or dramatic conflict. I believe that relying solely on intense or dramatic conflict to advance a story’s plot, or to inform the characters’ development, is a mistake because it leads to conflict-centered, strife-oriented, war-focused storytelling, which in turn results in the proliferation of violence. Consider this:


“The National Institute of Justice, (NIJ) analysis of data collected from U.S. mass shootings from 1966 to 2019, found that while there was no single profile of a person who engaged in a mass shooting, the most frequently shared trait by the mass-shooters interviewed for this study was early childhood trauma and exposure to violence.”


(Jillian Peterson and James Densley, “A Multi-Level, Multi-Method Investigation of the Psycho-Social Life Histories of Mass Shooters.” Sept. 2021.)



Another reason for opposing media violence relates not only to harmful effects for audiences, but also to the effects on the artists themselves. Creating violent content becomes progressively more corrosive to the artists creating it, which leads the way for their future storylines to devolve into even more violent content. On the other hand, when artists achieve success with storytelling which focuses on characters strengths, they tend to create more content in that vein, as opposed to resorting to violence to sell their books or to drive box office sales.

To this point, a recent study by CSS (Center of Scholars & Storytellers), UCLA, and Common-Sense Media, called,  “The Good Guys: How Character Strengths Drive Kids’ Entertainment Wins”, has found a corollary between a film’s box office performance and whether the film contains characteristics that encompass moral character values and social-emotional skills that underscore ethical behavior. In fact, this 2023 study finds that the number of character strengths and skills included in movies is directly related to box office performance both in the USA and worldwide. The study cited examples where over 1,700 films tagged with Character Strengths made an average of more than $87 million globally, compared to only about $34 million for movies without character strengths, an 88% difference in box office returns.

“The findings of this study indicate that both parents and children prefer media content that promotes social and emotional learning, including qualities such as compassion, gratitude, and teamwork.” (Lauren B. Taylor; Yalda T. Uhls; “The Good Guys: How Character Strengths Drive Kids’ Entertainment Wins” 2023. Common Sense Media, Feb. 16, 2023).


Given this situation, wouldn’t it be more beneficial for artists (and society in general) to take these findings into consideration and create the types of stories that focus on character strengths as opposed to violent conflict simply for the sake of having conflict drive the story? This would apply not only for kids’ entertainment, but for teens and adults as well. It seems the ticket-buying public has spoken— parents, children, and young people prefer to consume content which includes “characteristics that encompass moral character values and social-emotional skills that underscore ethical behavior and qualities needed for thriving within social institutions.” (Taylor & Uhls, CSS, UCLA, Common Sense Media. 2023).

            For instance, films for young people aren’t meant solely to entertain. They can also inform us with messages about right vs. wrong; what actions make one a hero vs. a villain; and how to overcome obstacles or problem-solving. For example, The Hate U Give (2018), teaches teens how to stand up against gun violence. While films like WALL-E (2008) promote messages about the dangers of environmental destruction and overt consumerism.

            I find it appalling that many film industry “gatekeepers” continue to promote the belief that all storytelling should rely on conflict as its core story element. Instead, I believe that modern-day storytelling is on the verge of evolving, out of sheer necessity.

Thus it is my sincerest wish to help usher in a new genre of storytelling that eliminates media violence and focuses on portraying character strengths that do not rely on intense or “in-your-face” conflict to establish or develop their storylines or their characters. Examples of these types of films include: The Blind Side (2009); Wings of Desire (1987); The Station Agent (2003); The Pursuit of Happyness (2005); Hidden Figures (2016); Lion (2016); Nomadland (2020); and CODA (2021). All of these films eschewed violence in favor of character-driven dramatic tension.

Using a storytelling tenet of creating “tension” as opposed to “overt conflict” may be a viable solution. This would allow for characters to disagree with other characters, without resorting to violence to settle their disputes. Expressing the characters’ development by using tension which can be resolved is what “Life Force Storytelling” proposes, instead of continually building up and adding more and more situational conflict.

Understanding tension vs. violence and learning to avoid violent conflict is part of humanity’s evolution into a more “elevated” being —more able to relate to others and avoid individual conflict, which can threaten our lives and even our existence as a species (i.e. nuclear war and its fallout).

The tenets of reincarnation, life-altering love found when meeting those you’ve known and loved in past lives, and the interconnection of everyone and everything in the Universe also depends on human beings overcoming violent conflict. In some belief systems, when we reincarnate, we have goals and “life lessons,” which we choose to work on in our subsequent “incarnations,” ultimately evolving as a person or induvial soul, and conversely as an entire species. LFS highlights these types of life lessons in its attempt to give audiences a “model” of character strengths that allow us to augment our lifegoals of reincarnating in order to learn life lessons and become a more highly evolved soul, and together become a more highly evolved species.

That is the crux of LFS—to augment both our individual and species’ evolution in the spectrum of survival of the fittest. LFS helps us evolve into the “fittest” version of ourselves, and into our place in the future of this planet and the Universe.

Overall, I believe modern-day storytelling will evolve, and its evolution will probably be more market-driven than anything I could say or do to create a non-violent genre of storytelling. That’s why I predict LFS has a place in our society, and that is also why I predict it will prevail. It is what audiences want.


MMelissa L White


Melissa L. White is a screenwriter, novelist, short story writer, and essayist. She published a short fiction collection titled, “On the Green Earth Contemplating the Moon” (2012). Her screenplay about female artist, Georgia O’Keeffe won BEST SCREENPLAY DRAMA and BEST BIOPIC at the 4Threatre Film Festival in June 2023. This screenplay, “Blackness of Space, Whiteness of Bones,” also won the GRAND PRIZE – BEST FEATURE SCREENPLAY at the Silicon Beach Film Festival in Sept. 2023. Her LGBTQ+ Rom Com screenplay, “Modern Marriage,” won 4th Place in the Writer’s Digest Screenwriting Contest in 2021. Her essay, “Can AI Learn How it Feels to Cry?” won 2nd Prize at the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Contest in August 2023. She lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino, with her fiancé, Mark, an award-winning commercial photographer.

 Recent Publications:

 Ariel Chart Literary Journal, January 14, 2023, Short Non-Fiction Essay, “Thank You, Mr. Lucas, and Serena Williams,”

 Ariel Chart Literary Journal, February 1, 2023, Short Non-Fiction Essay, “Thank You, George Lucas,”  

 Sapphire Selections Online Literary Journal, "Discover," Aug. 9, 2023, Short Story, "RISK." Literary Journal, September 28, 2023, Short Story – “Beyond the Balcony,”

 She can be found here:

 Instagram: @melissa94901

 “X” (Formerly Twitter): @maggiethecat6

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