A hero’s Journey minus Step Three

It was embarrassing. On Monday I’m scheduled to give a talk about the hero’s journey. It’s my favorite subject, and I find the idea helpful for my own writing.

Hero's Journey

Hero’s Journey

On the previous Wednesday we had a meeting of our critique group, the Rainwriters. We’re a no-nonsense bunch, we don’t chat, but get right to work. When it came time to report on the romance novel I’m writing, someone pointed out that, of course, my hero was on a romantic quest, a hero’s journey of the first order.

“But Ed,” my colleague said, “doesn’t the hero’s journey call for the hero to refuse the call at first?”

Right away, I knew he was right. I had not followed my own rules. The hero of my story had fallen for a woman without any forethought. My chapter had failed to include step three of the hero’s journey, the hero refuses the call.

My heroes are always doing that – they jump right into a challenge, with no forethought. I guess they’re like me in that regard.

In one way, it’s okay. This is how I get to know my characters – by shoving them into action and seeing what they do. That’s fine for a first draft, but it certainly didn’t belong in a submission to the Rainwriters. And it certainly shouldn’t have come from the man who teaches all about the hero’s journey.

Why is it that we can’t see our own faults? Many times I take a chapter to the Rainwriters and I think it’s damn near perfect. But the group often finds a hole in the chapter that you could back a semi through.

And, of course, the irony increased. That night I watched a movie and what did the hero do? He refused the call at the beginning.

How about you? Does this happen to you? You know the rules, but somehow in your own writing you forget them.

11 responses to “A hero’s Journey minus Step Three

  1. Ed, while Vogler’s book is useful, the hero’s journey is not a formula to be followed slavishly without factoring in a lot of thought about the particular genre the writer is working in.. Even Vogler himself admits that sometimes one only uses certain parts of it. What parts the writer uses are very often dictated by the genre. Sometimes it’s necessary to jump right in, and I have a suspicion that in this case, you might be right to go straight into it as you did.

  2. I think robertwmackay is probably right. There is also the admonition to start the story with action, and that might not always be possible if you follow the advice slavishly.

  3. TY for the reminder. Too easy to justify breaking the rules. I rewrote & rewrote first couple of chapters, including an action opening. My beta reviewers, turned thumbs down until my Bilbao Baggins refused to sign the contract. Even if we know the hero will eventually pick up the torch, we want to learn the how and why. We all have our daily refusals to answer the call: helping a friend; telling the boss off; shunning advances. We look to writers for inspiration… inspire me Ed. You wouldn’t let me away with undisciplined writing. You are still on the hook… watcha ya gonna do?

  4. Pingback: Day 10: The Hero’s Journey or “Superfly” | Elias Cresh·

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