The Writer’s Journey
Featured you-must-read-this-book for November is The Writer’s Journey; Mythic Structure For Writers by Christopher Vogler. Before I launch into why every writer should read this book, a little about the author. Vogler has evaluated more than 10,000 screenplays for major motion picture studios. He’s acted as a story consultant and contributed to such box-office hits as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. He’s a story exec at 20th Century Fox and he conducts international writing workshops.
Okay, so now you get the point that he knows his stuff, why on earth should a writer who writes novels and not screenplays read this book? What on earth could say… a romance writer get out of this book?
Well, that’s easy. And it’s all to do with The Hero’s Journey, a concept first articulated by Joseph Campbell. Notice I say ‘concept’ and not ‘formula’. If you’re a romance writer, you’ll probably have been accused of that before: writing to a formula. But really really good storywriting is not in any way formulaic. In fact, it may even break all the ‘rules’ but as long as the story means something to the reader, makes them feel, satisfies them in some way, then the rules don’t much matter… I’m thinking Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, here. Does he ever break the rules and by god does his writing resonate at some deep level with me. The man, quite simply, is a master! But I digress. And hey, it’s my blog so get used to it :-)
So if you’ve never heard of the term The Hero’s Journey before, here it is in a nutshell: (I quote) “All stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams and movies. They are known collectively as The Hero’s Journey.”
Why is The Hero’s Journey so important to us as writers? Because: “Understanding these elements and their use in modern writing is the object of our quest. Used wisely, these ancient tools of the storyteller’s craft still have tremendous power to heal our people and make the world a better place.”
Whoa! And what writer wouldn’t want to aspire to that?
Anyway, this book takes us on a journey through the stages the Hero (or Heroine – the terms are completely interchangeable) must overcome in one way or another from the moment his creator first dreams him up and plonks him into the story, until the moment he’s done what he has to do and the story ends. It’s a fascinating journey of twelve stages – also interchangeable to a degree:
1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting with the Mentor
5. Crossing the First Threshold
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
10. The Road Back
12. Return with the Elixir
Now don’t be put off by these fantastical-sounding labels. I learned more about the successful structure of a novel (and a film and a television program) from this book than I’ve learned from any other “How-to” book I’ve read so far. It’s really opened my eyes to what works and what doesn’t – you know, those books, films or television series that leave you with a ‘nyuh, it was alright but nothing to write home about’ kinda feeling. I learned about archetypes, threshold guardians, placement of the ordeal, romantic choice, the quiet climax and the rolling climax (no, not THAT type of climax!). And just when I thought my cup runneth over (so to speak), the final section entitled: Demonstration Of The Idea, explains the concept via incredibly detailed analyses of the hero’s journey in some actual blockbuster movies, namely: Titanic, The Lion King, Pulp Fiction, The Full Monty and Star Wars.
A fantastic read, and an easy one, too. Definitely a keeper! Get your hands on a copy… you won’t regret it.
There’s a few this month because I had the great fortune of winning a raffle at our monthly RWNZ Auckland meeting – yay! Plus I got to take home all the books brought in to swap because our lovely lady who usually does that couldn’t make the meeting. So I rubbed my hands in glee and settled down to an orgy of reading everything before the next meeting. Figured it’d take me at least till February but unfortunately I’ve nearly got through them already. Oh well, them’s the breaks. Hoping for a heap of lovely book vouchers this Christmas – hint, hint!
-Kissing Sin by Keri Arthur
-The Waste Lands (Dark Tower 3) by Stephen King
-Masquerading Mistress by Sophia James
-The Lady’s Tutor by Robin Schone
-The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (W/as A.N.Roquelaure)
-Sleeping Partner by Kelly Hunter
-All Work And No Play by Julie Cohen
-The Mediterranean Millionaire’s Mistress by Maggie Cox
-A Thrill to Remember by Lori Wilde
-Wicked Seduction by Janelle Denison
-Night Fever by Tori Carrington
-The Last Good Man in Texas by Peggy Moreland
-Tiger Eyes by Robyn Donald
-The Italian Millionaire’s Virgin Wife by Diana Hamilton
-Heartbreaker by Laurie Paige
-In the Banker’s Bed by Cathy Williams
-Luke’s Proposal by Lois Faye Dyer
-A Bachelor At The Wedding by Kate Little
-The Horseman by Margaret Way
-Wizard and Glass (Dark Tower 4) by Stephen King
-The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney
-Fire Me Up by Katie MacAlister
-Spellbound; The Surprising Origins and Astonishing Secrets of English Spelling by James Essinger
-Blue Moon by Lori Handeland
-Hunter’s Moon by Lori Handeland
If I don’t post again before Christmas, have a lovely day and may Santa spoil you! And no, I don’t much care about that politically correct BS, which is why I’m going to say “Merry Christmas!” instead of Happy Holidays. Sorry if I offend anyone, but hey, you don’t have to read the blog, do you?