Life is full of parallels. Here I am, on my journey to write a novel, and one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal is “the hero’s journey“. I was looking at a few ways to create an outline for my novel. As I wrote in previous posts, I need a plan (You can see links to describe one or two of them here). After I thought about that for days, I decided that none of them is for me, but all of them are very good. It may sound weird, but really it isn’t. I decided to take what works for me from each one, and I highly recommend anyone doing the same – i.e. what works for you.
Now, the outline techniques are great for planning purposes, but we are not planning construction of a house here. We’re planning a novel. A house is built with some building blocks that are organized for the purpose of keeping it together. The outline has more or less the same purpose.
But when we plan a novel, we need to consider the story. The story has to be “built” in a way that it is not only being “held together”, but is also progressing in the right direction and maintaining reason, and meaning.
What is our story? Well, my story is what happens to my protagonist, and all other characters in time and place. That is where the hero’s journey fit in. This method is used (or at least can be identified) in so many novels a lot of us read, that I admit feeling a little stupid when I first read about it… It is almost a template of sorts (and I don’t mean to over simplify this), and when it is followed, guess what? great stories emerge.
I have spent the last few days working on my outline, and having the hero’s journey as the main guideline. If you are not yet familiar with the method, here is one of its known formats:
Taken from: http://home.rmi.net/~seifert/id22.html
In the referred website, there’s a link to demonstrate the implementation of these steps in “The fellowship of the ring” (Anyone heard about this book? is it any good? ;))
The Hero’s Journey Explanation Home Culture The protagonist has a “home,” a place that s/he thinks is normal, familiar, and common to others in his/her culture. Call to Adventure A normal occurrence motivates the protagonist to acknowledge an unknown aspect of his/her world, feel a restlessness with the constraints of his/her life, or find a new world that s/he was not aware existed. Refusal of the Call The protagonist chooses not to move forward in life because s/he chooses to not give up his/her position, power, ideals, goals, or responsibilities; the refusal is often based on his/her fear of the unknown and comfort in the familiar. Usually secondary characters support the protagonist’s refusal. Supernatural Aid The inexperienced protagonist is provided a supernatural, guiding, and/or guarding character, or an instrumental item (sword, encouragement, etc.) to assist his/her step forward into the unknown. Crossing the First Threshold The protagonist moves out of his/her comfort zone and walks alone. S/he is confronted with an obstacle that must be overcome before s/he can fully enter the dangers of the unknown journey. Road of Trials The protagonist is tested and found vulnerable, but the outcome reveals a part of him/her that s/he did not know existed. The assistance given the protagonist under the “Supernatural Aid” section of “Departure” begins to come into play in the story, and s/he is not expected to face the trials alone. Meeting a Soul Mate(mother-figure) The protagonist meets an ideal (in ancient myths a goddess; in modern stories a soul mate) and sees the possibilities of his/her journey. This supernatural, human, or symbolic ideal encourages him/her forward. Overcoming Temptation(father-figure) Someone or something tries to destroy the journey itself. Often the destroyer has been sent by a larger evil to stop the protagonist. The protagonist is often misled, but eventually overcomes his lack of knowledge, prejudices, and fears as s/he grows in the acceptance of his/her role as hero. Viewing the Whole Picture(god-like) The protagonist moves beyond the final terrors of change that are founded in his/her ignorance. S/he adds the spiritual element to his/her journey. The protagonist is still in the midst of the journey but s/he is now willing to accept what is required of him/her to complete the mission. The Ultimate Goal(Treasure) The protagonist becomes self-assured and often receives physical gifts and/or emotional rewards. Since personal limitations are broken, the protagonist can see the big picture not only in relation to him/herself but also in relation to others. The protagonist understands how the ultimate goal can be accomplished and the mission completed. Refusing to Return Although seldom a true refusal, the protagonist, who should return “home” with his/her powers, ability, or wisdom, remains isolated and often faces a death of sorts. Sometimes s/he prefers to live in the enlightenment than return to a “home” that might not accept the ultimate gift. The Chase The protagonist flees toward safety to thwart the attempts to take back the treasure, power, ability, or wisdom. Because the protagonist has changed, the chase characterizes his/her courage and confidence. The Rescue The protagonist is unable to save him/herself. Others help him/her return “home,” which may deflate his/her ego, but since s/he sees the entirety of the mission, s/he understands the importance of what is accomplished. Crossing the Return Threshold The protagonist must face the evil or its leader and the realization that home is no longer a place but a state of being. Those in his/her past may not accept his/her new ability, power, or wisdom and may test it as a final trial to the protagonist. Master of Two Worlds The protagonist has the ability, power, or wisdom without limitations to relax in whatever world (physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual) s/he finds him/herself. S/he can adjust to who s/he was in the past and who s/he might be in the future. Freedom(Often the theme of the quest) The protagonist is able to combine the workings of unenlightened (old) and enlightened (new) societies into one world, the world where the protagonist now resides. S/he understands that his/her old self had to “die” in order for the new way of life to begin. S/he no longer fears change because s/he has learned to live in the moment regardless of what that means.
Once I saw this, I just KNEW I had what I need to take the next step and complete the first draft of my outline. I have a pretty solid base now. I still need to have my foundations inspected, but I’m pretty sure that once I finish the work on the necessary fixes (I’m sure there’s a need for some), I’ll be able to build my novel, based on a meaningful and (hopefully) well thought out outline.
I feel good!