Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Hero's Journey

In this month's RWR there is an article by Colleen Gleason on The Hero's Journey. My dear friend Loreth Ann White (if the link doesn't work her new website is being built) is quoted in the article and this is one of her favourite subjects. She recommended to Meretta and I, Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth.

It is a fascinating subject how storytelling, religion and spirituality have all evolved together and both affected and reflected society. And it is also fascinating to see the use of the basic elements of the hero's journey unconsiously used in my manuscripts.

The elements as modified by Christopher Vogler are:
  • Ordinary World
  • Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Meeting with the Mentor
  • Crossing the First Threshold
  • Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave
  • Ordeal (black moment)
  • Reward
  • The Road Back
  • Resurrection
  • Return with Elixir
Colleen noted how hard it was to start with the ordinary world when everybody expects immediate gratification and a fast paced read. You have to start with the action, with change... so how do you portray the ordinary world or the set up? Another observation was that in most romance novels the last 4 or 5 elements tend to be dealt with in one climatic scene.

In the first version I wrote of Storm Warning I had the road back, but it didn't work. Two climactic action scenes one after the other, seemed to rob power from one big climatic finish. So now there is just one climactic scene (which just happens to incorporate all sorts of symbolism in the hull of a burning sinking boat that I hadn't really considered before I watched Campbell), and now I'm wondering if the road back--that final hurdle where love still seems doomed even though the villain is dead, should be an emotional hurdle, rather than a stray bullet or final plot twist.

I did note that I had no mentor in this book and I'm wondering if I can incorporate some mentor abilities in the ghost of the heroine's father. Can he teach her something about herself that has a powerful meaning to the story. Might give his presence more meaning even if he is dead.

So here I am, thinking I'm nearly finished with my story and now I'm pondering giving it slightly MORE meaning. Sigh. And I realize these aren't rules to live/write by, but storytelling is an art that I'm learning and hope to get right.

Tools and craft I can use :)

Intelligent people, romance readers.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Oh great, spam in the morning, ain't that lovely.

    Don't overthink it. Books will always reflect this. If the mentor fits put it in, if not ...

  3. I think it might work. The ghost is trying to tell her something and save her, maybe I can make this message clearer.

  4. Sounds like that would be a perfect spot - good luck with it.

  5. It's so hard to get the craft part right. There are so many darn layers. But you can do it, Toni. :-)

  6. I like the Hero's Journey idea for storylines, it is what I use basically, mainly because it works well for a panster.

    The mentor could actually come from inside your heroine. Perhaps that little voice inside her speaks up, voice of reason which hadn't been so vocal but as she grows on her journey, it develops. Just a thought.

  7. I'm looking forward to seeing Mr. Campbell's works. Thanks, Loreth! Have to admit, I haven't read/used Vogler. Must do that. Sooner rather than later.

  8. Layers--yes Melissa (reminds me of Shrek!)

    Rene--interesting thought about that little internal voice. Must think about it.

    Meretta--it has to go back in a couple of days. Only watched 2 episodes of the 6. BUT they were really good. :)