Writing the Hero’s Journey Part 2

This week on Hide and Create Moses Siregar, Jaye Wells, Jordan Ellinger and Joshua Essoe continue last week’s discussion on the monomyth.

Actually, we argue for a bit to finish up as we examine the trope of the Chosen One.

4 thoughts on “Writing the Hero’s Journey Part 2

  1. I was thinking yesterday about the heroes’ journey and the classic steps it follows. One step in particular stood out for me, the call to adventure and it’s initial refusal. We tend to think that the call and the refusal belong to the “hero/protagonist”, but that is not always the case. It is possible that the ostensible hero is the one to make the call, and it is some other necessary person, like the mentor who refuses. Consider True Grit, the girl looking for vengeance needs someone with the skills to help her. The guy with the skills is a drunk who is not eager to take her on. In Unbreakable, the mentor is also the antagonist. There are other reluctant mentor stories out there as well that tweaks the archetype. Anyway it made me realize that the archetypal configurations can be contravened in interesting ways.

    So what would it look like to flip the nature of the thresholds, the “boss” fight…what if the biggest least prepared for trouble came at the first and afterwards things just got easier and easier to resolve until the hero reaches the end of his journey feels deeply unfulfilled and backtracks knowing this time he will surely lose? What other of the heroes journey steps/tropes can be turned on their head and the story still work?

  2. Any story where there is a gathering of heroes needed to pursue and accomplish a quest, there can be multiple hero’s journeys. Like you said, some of those heroes might not be so hot on such a quest. Matt Cauthon in Wheel of Time, for example, constantly tries to refuse the call. Sometimes a hero makes it so difficult that they have to be beaten in battle first, or some other task of skill, wit, or brawn.

    I don’t think you can successfully make things easier and easier throughout a story and hold on to your audience. It is an interesting idea to think about, but I don’t think plausible in execution. What you’d be doing is releasing pressure and tension the whole time, rather than building it, and that doesn’t work. It isn’t interesting. Also, it would be quite a problem to start with a lot of tension without the time and space required to get readers emotionally involved enough to care. Perhaps if it was a story with previously established characters — but it’ll likely be the death of that series to write declining action for the whole book!

  3. You may well be right, but I have encountered one classic heroes’ journey subversion that skirts this territory. Perhaps you have read the novella by James, the Beast in the Jungle. It is technically a masterpiece, a meticulously engineered story….and it is almost uniformly gray and tedious its entire length, a core to labor through, until/unless you get a peak at the clockwork. It is essentially the Aeneid in condensed form. Every part of it maps more or less closely to the key events and personages of the Aeneid (of which James once made a translation…that was the key). In his story every place Aeneas does something/takes action, the hero in James’ story pulls a Prufrock and dares not disturb the universe. It is a story where nothing much happening for the MC is the point…and the horror of that realization by the MC at the end is the payoff. The Beast in the Jungle is an Anti-Aeneid.

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