Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Hero

“1.        THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history.  Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.” C. Vogler, The Writer’s Journey
On the website,'s_journey.htm , Christopher Vogler does a terrific job of explaining the Hero’s Journey, as originally described by Joseph Campbell.  It breaks down into 12 phases.  The first phase is the Ordinary World, which he describes above.  I highly recommend you add this site to your favorites.  There is also a highly useful book and a DVD.  It helped me view my story structure in a whole new light.

Please understand the Hero’s Journey  is not a formula.  It is a reflection and description of the common traits that memorable stories have had since the beginning of time.  The key traits can be found in such extremes as The Tales of Hercules and Shrek.  Good storytellers have a deep rooted sense of the journey.  Where does it come from?  I believe it comes from read and lots of it.  Good books, bad books (bet you can pick the spots that don’t work) and everything in between.  In a good series, it is found not only in an individual novel but in the meta-arc.  Pick one of your favorite novels (or movies) see if the pieces are there.

So how do you start your novel?  Blow up a building on page one and risk that no cares that your intended hero (non-gender specific) is the only one who gets out alive.  Give too much backstory and you don’t hook the reader.  The craft and art or writing is finding just the right balance.  Something that tells us about your hero and engages and perhaps foreshadows what is to come.  This may feed into the debate over prologue.

That’s why I am on the umpteenth revision of my opening, sometimes for the better and sometimes it’s “what was I thinking!”

How about you?  Tell us how your opening fits into the Ordinary World.

How does this fit with your own journey as a writer?