Monday, January 11, 2010

Crash Course in Craft: Common Errors Related to the Hero’s Journey

During the past few weeks we’ve considered the structure of the Hero’s Journey. While not every good story fits into this structure—masterpieces tend to bend, if not completely shatter, the “rules”—it does provide help when trying to understand why a story doesn’t work.

So have a gut feeling something isn’t right? Consider the following:

Complaint: I don’t care about/connect with the characters.
Possible cause: Ordinary world was eliminated or chopped short, failing to provide sufficient time to know characters and establish what’s at stake.

Complaint: Story starts too slow.
Possible causes: The first threshold is not reached soon enough or hero’s decisions fail to be the driving force behind the crossing of the point of no return.

Complaint: The middle bogs down.
Possible causes: Tests are not intense enough, what’s at stake not sufficiently increased, or hero passes through Cave effortlessly (e.g. villain defeated too easily or price paid not high enough).

Complaint: The climax flops.
Possible causes: No “death” occurred (goal obtained with too few problems), or resurrection was unjustified (e.g. coincidence saves hero).

Complaint: The ending left me unsatisfied.
Possible causes: The elixir failed to justify the cost of death/journey, or expectations raised are left unfulfilled.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list. Nor is the journey infallible and sometimes these complaints may be caused by other problems. But perhaps by understanding some of the common flaws and why they happen, maybe we can see beyond them to the gems that may still lie beneath.


Brandon said...

I always enjoy your blog.

Chawna Schroeder said...

That's always good to hear. I'd hate to think I was boring the whole world with my work. :o)