1. Mar65
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    Mar65 New Member

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    A story and the hero’s journey structure

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mar65, Aug 30, 2015.

    I’m writing a story and trying to implement the Hero’s Journey (monomyth) structure to it.

    Could I ask for some help?

    Here it is, roughly.

    1. A young woman lives her normal life - she has a hobby, a male best friend, a female best friend, works in a company (THE ORDINARY WORLD).
    2. Someone suggests to her that her boyfriend cheats on her (CALL TO ACTION) - she doesn’t believe, refuses (REFUSAL OF THE CALL).
    3. Someone suggests to her to quit the company and begin her freelance career (CALL TO ACTION) - she refuses (REFUSAL OF THE CALL).
    4. She has a minor conflict in her work that results in that she loses her job.
    5. She discovers that her boyfriend is cheating with her female best friend. She loses both of them. Only her male best friend becomes her support (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR).
    6. She is forced to move to other city, to find new job, new boyfriend and new life (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD).
    7. She tries to cope in a new environment (TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES).
    8. She meets with a special man (how would that fit into monomyth? - APPROACH?).
    9. He turns out to be a mysterious person and takes her for a dangerous journey, they are chased (THE ORDEAL?)
    10. They fall in love, she is brave enough to cope with his dangerous life (THE REWARD?).

    My questions:

    1. Does this structure seams firm?
    2. Could there be several Call to Actions (nr 2 and 3)?
    3. The call to action isn’t accepted by the hero because the mentor convinces the hero, but because the hero is left with no choice. Is that OK with the monomyth?
    4. Isn’t the main matter of the story (meeting with special man - nr 8) introduced too late? Isn’t there too much of the introduction? Doesn’t this break up into two different stories instead of being one?
    5. The most important - shouldn’t the newly met special man became her MENTOR instead of her best male friend? Could she just have two mentors? If not, who would be the newly met special man to her in terms of the monomyth (an ally? - I think not)?
    6. Do points 8, 9 and 10 fit into the structure of monomyth?
    7. I have no concept for the last three parts, THE ROAD BACK, THE RESURRECTION and RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. Can someone help with some rough ideas?

    Thanks.
     
  2. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Thank you for this post, you taught me something new :) I didn't know this structure even existed. Due to my lack of knowledge concerning the monomyth (as you called it?), I cannot answer most of your questions. But I will try to give you some feedback:

    The rough outline seems fine to me, though I must confess that I am not sure how you will get your MC to appeal to the audience. Most of her actions until No. 5 consist of "inaction." That can work, mind you. However, she seems somewhat passive. Have you thought about how you will keep your readers from getting frustrated with your MC?
    The structure seems quite fantasy-like to me. Since I know next to nothing about it, I might be wrong. Your story is more romance-like with a hint at drama. I am not sure if this structure fits with your genre(s). Have you thought about adapting the structure for a more general use?
     
  3. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    Hi Mar65,

    the structure seems to be fine so far, but before I go further, I have to say that my opinions are just that - opinions - and may not be definitive at all. From reading the structure, it seems your story is geared more towards the romance market, which I have little experience in. If I've misread it, please forgive me.

    Even when using the Hero's Journey as a structure, it isn't mandatory to have all the elements in there. Lucas did when writing Star Wars; Seeger didn't when writing Witness.

    My understanding is that the call to adventure is an event that suggests there is a large, dangerous goal that the protagonist feels an initial desire to attempt, even though s/he lacks the skills to do so. I don't see an affair as being in this category. The refusal occurs when the protagonist then says to herself "I'm not up to it," or similar. Think Luke Skywalker when he first sees the droid's video message fro the princess. At some stage, there is an inciting incident (Luke's foster family is slaughtered) that compels the protagonist to take up the challenge.

    To me, what you've outlined would work fine (the telling of the story and the skill and attention you lave on it will determine its ultimate success), but you will need to add turning points, rising action, and so forth. And if it is to be along the lines of the Hero's Journey, the main result of the protagonist's action will have to be to bring change to the community: Luke thwarts the Emperor’s plans by bringing out the remnants of love in Vader's heart; Ford uncovers a police conspiracy and captures the ringleader. Romance can work, I think, but I'm unsure if you can incorporate too many elements (of the Hero's Journey) into the structure. You will need to establish in the end, how the hero comes to be a major figure in two worlds - the one she came from, and the one she entered to complete the journey.

    My suggestion is that you get hold of Seeger's book (Making a Good Script Great, or similar), and also take a look at Author's Salon website. There's a lot of material on the site, and if you (or anyone) wants a zipped series of .doc files of most of the stuff there, let me know and I'll post a DropBox link.
     
  4. Mar65
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    Mar65 New Member

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    Hi, what do you exactly mean by adapting it for a more general use? What particular changes do you have on mind?
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not a fan of this building block by block approach to writing, to be honest, so I'm not sure how much help I'll be. Nor do I think anybody should start out a writing project by thinking "Hey, I'm going to write a Monomyth." If you do that, you'll end up with a monomyth, all right, but it will not be much fun to read, because it's all constructed. It does not come from the heart, and will contain no real insight into human behaviour. You're just creating slots and filling them.

    You're not building a house. You're drawing readers into a story, using believable characters, dilemmas everybody can relate to, and hopefully an ending that will satisfy and enlighten the reader.

    My first thought, when reading through your 'synopsis' is that most of your story is crammed into the beginning. As soon as it starts to be interesting, the story is over.

    In 1-7 She discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her, leaves her job, moves to a new city and begins learning to cope. Only at number 8, does the story actually start. She meets a new person who takes her straight out of her old life, into a new one, filled with danger, romance ...etc etc. They have a dangerous journey to undertake, a chase, whatever. And live happily ever after? All in less than half the story time it took for her to discover—and accept—that her boyfriend was cheating on her?

    I feel that the real story begins at number 8. You could probably condense 1-7 into a single chapter, or maybe two. First chapter, she discovers her boyfriend's betrayal and loses her job. Second chapter, she enters a new environment and starts learning to cope. Third chapter, she meets this new person and her new life begins. It's what happens next that will make the story exciting. Let us watch her develop into what she really can become.

    I think when you start trying to 'construct' a story this artificial way, you can end up making it terribly lopsided. I wouldn't worry about labeling it Monomyth, or whatever. Just get into your character's head and discover what the main story is. Is it simply watching her let go of her old life, finger by reluctant finger? Or watching her engage with her new one?
     
  6. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I'm not sure that I agree with your assertion that a story with a particular structure won't have believable characters, dilemmas, no real insight into human behaviour, nor that it won't come from the writer's heart. It's just a structure, and even a house built by one person can still have a lot of that person's character in it.

    What a story contains is a result of what the author puts into it, how they create the characters, and how those characters act. There have been some great works that have elements of the hero's journey in them. And there are good reasons why the structure has proven so enduring.

    That said, following a rigid formula ( a la Mills & Boon romances) is not a good thing if a writer's intention is to create something memorable and perhaps proud of. (Though it's my understanding that this sort of thing pays very well.)
     
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  7. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I don't have any specific changes in mind, because I know next to nothing about this monomyth structure :)

    However, the titles you used (Call to Action - the ordeal - the reward) very much reminded me of stereotypical fantasy novels. Your story would be categorised as romance. Therefore the monomyth (?) structure seems unsuitable without making some changes to it. Otherwise you will have to bent twice over to fit a romance plot into this structure.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm the last person to think story structure doesn't matter. It does. But these story structures evolve as the story unfolds. I don't believe it's what should be first on your mind when you sit down to write. "I'm going to write a story structured like X."

    What you start with is something you want to say. About a character or characters. An event. A trauma. A mystery. A desire for something that seems impossible to attain. An attempt to grapple with problems and dilemmas we face in our lifetimes. Or simply to entertain with a tale that contains lots of 'what-if' moments and carries the reader along from an intriguing start to a crackingly satisfying finish.

    Later on, you end up looking at what you've written and thinking ...this bit moves too slowly. This goes on too long. I need a better transition here—we're just hopping from one person's head to another. The pace needs to be slowed down here, because we're wheeching through this important scene too quickly. This character needs to watch this traumatic event up close, if it's going to change how she looks at the world, etc. I know that probably sounds like 'it all happens by magic,' but to some extent it does.

    Rather than magic, I prefer to call it instinct. Instinct tells you what works and what doesn't, and what makes a good story roll along. Storytelling (and later writing) has been around humankind for thousands of years. I'd say we have all heard stories, read stories, watched stories evolve in film and TV. We instinctively 'know' what we need, in terms of structure. We just need to have faith in the process.

    I think I'm arguing from the opposite end of the blanket on this thread. I believe that when you start with a firm structure in place, then begin slotting characters and events into it, you ARE writing to a rigid formula. Characters are created and events are timed to fill the required slots, and nothing is allowed to evolve as it does in real life. The greatest danger is that there will be no heart in the story. Events which would have happened naturally might not happen at all, and events that might not have happened get forced into the mix. I'm openminded enough to hope the OP proves me wrong. But until we see what actually gets written, we won't know.

    I felt the OP's story had already started to go lopsided, and pointed out why. Structure won't guarantee that your story will work if you plug the wrong things into the wrong slots. However, if you are grimly determined to 'stick' to a particular structure, you won't give yourself room to change any of it.
     
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