Monday, October 5, 2009

The Reluctant Hero

REFUSAL OF THE CALL (or the reluctant hero) is typically the next step in The Hero's Journey. The hero learns something about herself or about some kind of quest he has to complete and it isn't something they want to do. They may feel fear, unbelief or apathy. But then something happens to make them change their minds and they are willing to start on the adventure.

This is typical. Ordinary. But it seems to work. Human nature (or whatever nature you are writing about) most always hesitates unless they are motivated. For myself, I need to know WHY I'm being asked to do something that doesn't make sense to me.

How are you handling your hero's REFUSAL OF THE CALL? Have you found a nice twist so that it's not your regular, I don't wanna go . . . okay, changed my mind, guess I'll go.


  1. Um, no refusal. They come from a very morally motivated society, where duty comes before personal preference. Actually, part of the story is their discovery of who they are outside of their duty.

  2. Danielle

    In my Werewolf idea, when he finds out he's a werewolf, there is a MAJOR refusal moment, the problem is that he doesn't have much choice . . .

    Then there's the kind of story where the idea is about saving your family/and, or saving the world by choice. I still think there's a kind of refusal there. I mean, of course they want to save their family, no questioning that -- but then again, the adventure probably wouldn't be their choice vacation. Understandable ;)

  3. Your hero or heroine has the choice whether they will fulfil their calling, but you must have a motivation for them. The world as they know it will end. or so on and so forth. But doesn't anyone dream of saving the world anymore?

  4. Amanda, I don't think so. We have become very self-centric. Personally, I have sort of given up on the world. I hate to say it, but I feel so helpless.

    Right now, I'm dreaming of a hot bath and an early bedtime. Which is just a dream because I know I'll be up very late working tonight.

  5. In my WIP my heroin Annay was already on a quest when the book starts, but she get knocked down hard. The story is about her finding her way to the point she can continue on the quest. For her the journey is getting back to that point.

  6. I think if the quest is more than disruptive to the hero's life ... if the hero will potentially lose their life, dreams, hopes, desires ... and all for either people they don't know or people they don't care about, well then, a refusal in the beginning is natural.

    If there's not a struggle, the reader will say, who cares? Even in a society of people like Christine's, where duty comes before personal desire, there should be some kind of hesitation. This raises tension, which we want in our manuscripts. And then the job falls to us to come up with a creative way for the hero to accept their destiny.

    Sometimes, a hero will accept right away and then change their minds when they see what's really involved.

    I see The Hero's Journey as a guide. Sure, you can leave some parts out. But I'm thinking you should have a real good reason for doing so. I realize The Hero's Journey can be a little predictible. All the more reason to give it a twist when you can. That's the hard part.

  7. Danielle

    I guess the heroine either has to be very attached to the world or have a reason to be. Maybe she's a driad :)

    I know some people who still dream of saving the world *hint, hint* ;)

    Even if it's a messed up world they can be fighting for the good left! Do not give up, brave heroes and heroines!!

  8. Pam, do you think the hero's journey is a required set of plot elements, or a general observation of how stories are written?

    That is to say, would a publisher reject an adventure that didn't contain every element?

  9. No, The Hero's Journey is not required. You won't get rejected because the editor saw you left something out.

    Yes, someone saw a pattern of what worked for all the most successful movies or books and came up with The Hero's Journey.

    That being said, if this is what works for all the best books and movies, why would we want to leave part of it out? What we need to do is find a creative way to include these aspects. Like anything else in writing, there's nothing new under the sun, we have to take what's already there and give it a fresh twist or perspective.

    This is why I've chosen to talk about The Hero's Journey before anything else. We need to learn the "rules" before we can bend them. So, learning all the steps in The Hero's Journey will only benefit our writing - maybe even give us help with writer's block. Even if we don't use the whole thing.

  10. Okay, everybody. Let's look at it this way. Let's be the change that we want to see in the world. There are times when this world does look hopeless-- but we are promised that if we "forsake our wicked ways and humble ourselves and seek God's face, He will heal our land" (I'm paraphrasing of course and I can't remember the reference) This concept needs to be applied to our books as well as our lives.
    What if our world (in our works) is falling apart for the lack of one person who is attempting to do right? WHy can't we make our hero that person?

  11. 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

    There can still be reluctance. Moses was reluctant and God appointed Aaron to speak for him. He also got so angry, He was about to kill Moses. (Exodus 4:13-14 and 24)

    God Himself audibly spoke to Moses, asking him to go to Egypt and Moses was reluctant. How much more reluctant would a person be when it's only another person asking them to go on the impossible quest where they might save the world and most likely die?

    See, in fiction, we want tension. In real life, we don't. When our hero hesitates to act and there are consequences, tension rises. The hero decides to take the quest, but they have to live with their choices. In my WIP, my heroine hesitates, the antagonist comes and learns something they didn't want her to know. As a consequence, she ends up attacking the village and people and fairies die. The world doesn't come to an end, but enough damage is done to convince the heroine she needs to act before it does.

    Does this make sense?

  12. Danielle speaking...

    I agree. Hesitation = consequences. I mean, it's always good to think carefully, and there is a time to sit and think your noggin off. But if you already know what's right, and you still hesitate, someone's going to pay for your mistake. Not to be cruel to our poor killable characters, but that's what they're there for :(