Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Archive for September 2011

The Hero’s Journey

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It’s 3:28am. I know I need to wake up early tomorrow, but I just cannot sleep.

I have been thinking about writing this since last night. This semester, I’m taking a class called Developing Story, and every time I walk out of this class, I want to sit down and write for hours. However, because I don’t get done with classes until 10 on those days, I will sometimes grab a drink with a friend, but most of the time will just head home to unwind and work on other things.

Last night, my instructor went over what is called The Hero’s Journey. It’s the basic skeletal framework for a story, mostly when character-driven. As she fleshed out a timeline on the board, and we discussed examples of when we’ve recognized this in film, I began to think about my own “journey” and of those around me.

The Hero’s Journey consists of stages or events that steer a character’s life in different directions. In film, this is called a “beat.” In life, these are called decisions. So you have a better understanding of what I’m talking about, here are the stages (taken from Chris Vogler and applying them to a three-act structure):

1. Ordinary World – This is the character or “hero’s” world when the story begins.

2. Call to Adventure – The hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure.

3. Refusal of the Call – The hero refuses the challenge or journey, usually because he’s scared.

4. Meeting with the Mentor – The hero meets a mentor to gain advice or training for the adventure.

5. Crossing the First Threshold – The hero leaves the ordinary world and goes into the special world.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies – The hero faces tests, meets allies, confronts enemies, and learns the rules of the special world.

7. Approach – The hero has hit setbacks during tests and may need to try a new idea.

8. Ordeal – The biggest or main life or death crisis.

9. Reward – The hero has survived death, overcomes his fear, and now earns the reward.

10. The Road Back – The hero must return to the ordinary world.

11. Resurrection Hero – another test where the hero faces death; he must use everything he has learned

12. Return with Elixir – The hero returns from the journey with the “elixir” (aka lesson, skill, etc), and uses it to help everyone in the ordinary world.

The more I think about these stages, the more I think about whether I’ve gone through this journey, where I might be along this journey, and whether most people go on this journey, if at all.

I think many of us believe that you cannot really know someone until you see them face adversity and witness their reaction. Normally, problems are confronted in various ways. Some individuals might try to avoid them, some thrive on taking on the challenge, and some allow others to solve the problem for them. I’ll be the first to admit that I have fallen into each category. But it’s always fascinating how one situation might be handled so differently by two people. I think this must be why I chose to major in psychology during undergrad. Albeit, I switched to pre-law right before my last year of school – I always am interested in people, who they are at their core, and what drives them in their actions. This is especially apparent now when I meet people and want to make films about them. It’s all coming full circle.

When my instructor asked the students in class to raise our hands if we considered ourselves more “character-driven” (as opposed to being “action-driven”) in our writing and storytelling, I was one of three to raise our hands. It dawned on me that every short story proposal I have written for this class resolves around a central character struggling with internal or moral conflict. Perhaps because I feel I am constantly struggling with an internal conflict, as well. I used to joke and attest this to being a libra (note: girl in the picture is NOT me), for which decision-making is a dreadful chore, but now I am recognizing my interest in how people deal with situations and the challenges presented in their lives.

We have been asked to develop a screenplay for a short 10-12 minute film before the semester ends. I have an idea of what I’ll be writing about, but won’t pitch until the next post. You’ll just have to check in later if you want to know more…

Written by winniewongsf

September 29, 2011 at 4:27 am

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