Monday, October 26, 2009

Crash Course on Craft: Hero’s Journey Part 3

If the Ordinary World has been set up correctly, you’ve entered a new world and met a few characters. Perhaps it surprised you, but they catch your attention and you find them intriguing. Curious what will happen next, you turn another page and then another.

Nothing happens. After three chapters or maybe four, you look up. The leaves need raking. The laundry waits to be washed. The book ends up on the end table, for the writer has forgotten to call you in further.

Story doesn’t need to start with change. However, something must rattle the character’s world soon after the start—the end of Chapter 1 or five minutes into the movie. After all, who wants to read about character’s going through their day-to-day motions? That’s what I do in my life. I don’t want to read about my life. That would be so bo-o-oring.

No, change is needed. Excitement. Conflict. This is where the second stage of the hero’s journey, the Call, helps out.

The call is a disturbance. An event, usually external to the character, threatens the character’s familiar world and thwarts all that he or she desires. A student’s sweetheart dumps him for his rival. A mother’s firstborn is diagnosed with autism. A foreign (or alien) government attacks a soldier’s peaceful post. Something has happened that require the characters to take action.

Oh, they may try to refuse to act at first (a Refusal of the Call), or someone else may need to prod them in the right direction (Mentor). But ultimately the call must back the characters into a corner and force them to decide their path.

And that’s when things get interesting.

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