Monday, September 21, 2009

The Journey Itself

We talked a little about the ordinary world of our hero last week. And we all agreed it's important to show what's normal for the hero before he/she sets off on their adventure. It gives the reader an idea of what's at stake.

Here's a quote from Christopher Vogler's book about The Journey:

"... the hero's story is always a journey. A hero leaves his/her comfortable, ordinary surroundings to venture into a challenging, unfamiliar world."

Then it goes on to say, "... many stories take the hero on an inward journey, one of the mind, the heart, the spirit."

Let's talk about The Journey this week. What sort of journey is your hero/heroine on? Is it an outward one with a quest into a labyrinth, cave, forest or strange location? Or is it more inside the hero's character/mind?

Vogler says, "It's these emotional journeys that hook an audience and make a story worth watching."

I believe the Journey should be both. Fantasy readers expect the characters to set off on an impossible quest into strange and mystical places. But they also want to *feel* things along with the hero. How can we balance the physical with the emotional?


  1. I'm trying to make the journey equally emotional and physical. Lots of action, but lots of soul-searching, too.

    My hero is in denial about a lot of things.

  2. In terms of balance, I think it's a matter of pacing. You alternate external and internal action, to give the reader (and characters) a chance to catch their breath. I think the important thing is not to reveal too much of the characters' inner feelings. Just hints, a few words here and there, the way they act when they are alone. You have to make the reader gradually build up to the emotional climax.

    At least, that's what I'm trying to do. I don't think I'm there yet.

  3. Annay, my heroin, is defiantly on an inward journey. Like Christine said, she is in denial. For Annay the journey is coming to a realization that she is in fact in denial and then embracing the thing she is in denial off.

    To balance this inward journey she is dealing with the real world and dealing with the results of her denial. Because of her denial her outward journey is hard.

    In my WIP i'm being a little more upfront with how Annay is doing internally. I'm writing the story as part historical fiction, part biography and part memoir. I'm writing as an author in her world who is writing about this historical figure, Annay. I'm also including, as part of the author's research, excerpts for Annay's own journals.

    I'm working on the balance between the external journey - the historical fiction - and the internal journey - the journal entries.

  4. Denial is a natural thing when someone is faced with the fact they are not who they thought they were ... or their life is not their own. And that causes all sorts of emotions.

    My heroine, Akeela, finds out she's destined to be so much more than she ever dreamed, but there's a catch. There's *always* a catch. HA!!

    More emotions.

    So, I think the physical journey can't help but bring on an internal journey. The world is every changing. So are we. With every new experience or person we meet, we are forever changed. What we do with that change is what matters.

  5. Because we write for a purpose, because we are commanded by God to be light and salt, all our works need to have our characters have a journey. That is not to say he has to have a "spiritual" journey, but rather that he must change because of the experiences he has and the people he has met. We are human, therefore by nature we change, we grow. So must our characters. We must show the world, if just through our writings, that good can overcome no matter what happens to our characters. So balancing the emotional with the physical is almost an unconscious blend. Their physical experiences determine what will happen with his emotional experiences as well.

  6. An example of a character who did not have a journey: Tom Hanks' character in "Castaway." I watched that whole movie, thinking that he would somehow change or grow. He didn't. He merely survived. The ending was such a letdown I thought, "Gee, I just wasted 3 hours of my life."

  7. In fiction in general there are two types of stories - Ones where the character needs to change, and ones where they need to stay steadfast. In the first the character is resisting the change or trying to figure how they need to change. In the other character is being tempted to change.

    Do you think that fantasy stories always need to be about change? Can anyone thing of an example of a good fantasy story where the main character need to stay steadfast?

  8. Lord of the Rings - Frodo needed to not give in to the temptation of the One Ring.

  9. If we are going to satisfy our readers, we must complete the character arc. We do not live in a vacuum. Everything that happens to us changes us.

    Doug, ALL stories are about change. Sometimes, the change is significant. Sometimes, it's not. A character can be steadfast but still experience change.

    Christine, I have to disagree about Frodo. He DID give in to the temptation of the ring. Hence, putting it on his finger and declaring it his own. If not for Gollum, who was the character that did not change, Frodo would have been totally lost.

    I believe, Sam didn't change much, either.

    I agree to a point about Cast Away (yeah, it was MUCH too long). Tom Hanks' character HAD to experience SOME change. Unfortunately, for us, it was SO internal, we didn't see it. That's why authors need to complete the character arc.

    A couple of great examples of incredible character arcs are the movies, Autumn in New York and The Bucket List. Check them out and see what I mean. Totally satisfying endings, too.

  10. Yes, Pam, Frodo did give in, in the end. But that was a failure on his part. Your question was an example of a plot in which the character is supposed to resist change.

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  12. That's true, Christine. Still, I believe Frodo experienced huge change ... internal, of course, because we didn't really SEE a change in the movie. It's more apparent in the book, though.

  13. He certainly is transformed by the experience of enduring so much hardship. But the basic plot hinges on him basically remaining the good, true person that he is. In fact, the whole story is about remaining steadfast in the face of great evil. Some are more steadfast than others, and in that sense it is a character study.

    My favorite part is when Gandalf observes about Sauron that "he is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring... That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream."

    I love this story because the good guys win only by being good. They aren't exceptionally clever or strong, just good.

  14. Yes!! I totally agree ... I've often asked the question, why do the good guys have to save the day by lying, cheating or stealing? Can't they simply do what's right and still win?

    Tolkien was a genius.

  15. In Anne of Green Gables, she doesn't change, but changes the people around her. Well...she might change a little, but I don't know, because it takes her until the second book to forgive Gilbert!!!

    Danielle again . . .

    I agree that most heroines/heroes, sound go through SOME sort of change, whether it be in perspective, personality, so on. I think it's possible to have a character not change, though.

    Maybe . . . .

  16. Oh great, it moved my Danielle again to the middle of the page!!! Computers ...grrr....