Friday, May 21, 2010

The Hero's Journey

So okay, I said I wouldn't be back for about a month.  But I'm so bored that I'm going to brave the one-handed writing and try to do this post...even if it takes me all day.

Have you heard of the writing concept, The Hero's Journey?  It's a concept that came to life many years ago, but has been renewed recently by Christopher Vogler.  It was written primarily for fantasy stories that are character driven, as opposed to being plot driven.  However, I discovered that if your story is character driven, you can fit your main character into the Acts, Stages and Character Arcs that compose the Hero's Journey, even if it is a contempory or even an historical novel.  I've just done that with Ben, my 'hero' in my historical fiction novel, and it's working out very well.

The Hero's Journey is divided into three "acts" which correspond to our beginning, middle and end.  Acts One and Two have five stages, Act Three has two stages, and all have character arcs to correspond with each stage.

Act One begins with the hero realizing that some problem exists in his sphere of life, but has very limited knowledge or awareness of it.  As the stages of Act One continue, the hero progresses from having increased awareness and knowledge of the problem to being reluctant to attempt to change or rectify the problem to finally overcoming his reluctance and being commited to trying to change things.

Act Two continues with the hero going through stages where he decides gradually to try different things to change the problem, then prepares for his final decision, faces his drawbacks and all the things that seem designed specifically to prevent him from achieving his goal of change, and finally sees him as totally committed to making the change or achieving his goal.

Act Three is the climax, where he finally accomplishes the change or the goal that he set out to do.

Look, we all know that there are NO new stories.  Every story in the history of mankind has already been told.  As writers, all we can hope to do is to put a different spin on an old story, to make it unique because of our voice, our characters, our settings, our dialogue, and etc.  But this way of looking at our main character(s) makes things easier.  What is it we are always told about writing fiction?
1.  Our mc wants something.
2.  There are forces ( situations, experiences, people) who are going to try to keep the MC from getting what she wants or achieving her goal.
3.  How does she deal with these forces?
4.  She either gets what she wants or achieves her goal, or she doesn't.
5.  How does #4 affect her in the long run.

The hero's journey addresses all these points, but in a more concise way.  I guess you can call it a type of outline, but for someone like me...who absolutely hates to just works better.

I'm going to give you two websites to check out.  The first is the one I printed out originally, and worked Ben ( my historical fiction MC) into.  The second is one I found recently, which has a good explanation of each of the Three Acts.

For the "questionnaire":

This is where you will find the outline of Acts, Stages, and Character Arcs.

This is a good explanation of each act, although it is written a bit differently than the 'questionnaire' above.  Still worth reading, however.

Take a look, and see if you can't use it in your own work.  If you want to see how I worked Ben into each act and stage, let me know and I'll email a copy to you.

Hope it works for you.  Let me know.