Monday, November 30, 2009

Crash Course on Craft: Hero’s Journey Part 6

Before Thanksgiving and the November blog tour, we had been looking at the stages of the Hero’s Journey, a basic structure or pattern of events that most good plots follow.

We have seen the protagonists in their ordinary world and watched that same world be shaken. Characters make life-changing decisions, crossing the point of no return, and after a series of test, the heroes and heroines are forced straight into the heart of enemy territory.

This brings us to the second major turning point of the story, called the Cave in the Hero’s Journey. Usually three-quarters through the story (though occasionally it’s at the halfway point), the Cave forces a confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist—on the antagonist’s turf.

Before this point, such confrontations have occurred on more neutral ground. Either hero or villain might win, but whoever did, the other still has opportunity to triumph over the other. But the prize—the external thing that the hero has strived for and which has driven him to this point—is now sight and the antagonist has the upper hand.

Here the protagonist will have to call on every scrap of knowledge acquired, lesson learned, skill practiced, ally made. For the battle—whether physical, relational, or internal—will be fierce. This is the reason why the protagonist crossed that point of no return.

And when the smoke clears, the prize sought will often be obtained, at least temporarily. But at what cost? For war never goes as planned, and the price paid will be far dear than any hero ever imagined, leaving him to wonder—was it really worth it?

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