Writing Aids

15 Apr 2020 18:27 #67719 by shadar
Replied by shadar on topic Writing Aids

Woodclaw wrote: I have some issues with the hero's journey. It's a very comprehensive and pervasive model, but way too many people use it as a "bible" rather than a guideline. One of the main problems, especially if you look at Campbell's original codification is that it's a very male-centric model, which includes the female figure only as either supporting cast (the Gift f the Goddess) or Temptresses that must be avoided or defeated to progress. Also, the model is based on a very confrontational mentality, most of the challenges must be faced weapons in hand.
In actual fact, two of the most archetypical examples of the hero's journey in modern fiction -- The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars Trilogy -- operates by actually subverting parts of it. The Lord of the Rings works by actually subverting the element of the magical aid, by making it a burden rather than a tool, which is actually the flipside of the classic quest model: instead of finding a magic item, the goal is to dispose of one, which is at the same time the Abyss part of the tale.
If we look at the final duel in Return of the Jedi, Luke doesn't complete the classic tropes of the hero's journey, refusing to kill both Vader and the Emperor, actually proving that the old status quo (i.e. you can't go back from the Dark Side) wasn't good at all.

Good points. It can also clearly be overused in formulaic ways. 

As I see it, the Journey is a template that the author can adjust. Genders can change, the definition of magic can become science or technology, etc.  But as I see it, the core concepts still form a good basis for storytelling (at least for an adventure story) that people will naturally enjoy. I think it's in our DNA. 

We humans have always loved stories of journeys and quests where the characters face incredible challenges and unknowns, starting from Homer and I'm sure uncounted unpublished storytellers from far earlier. The whole idea of going on a Quest is a thing that beats in many a heart. (Unless of course you are the average Hobbit, who cares nothing for such things.) 

And while Tolkien indeed tweaked some aspects as you note, his core story is still a Quest that incorporates most elements of the classic Journey. I suspect it's the story resolutions that have the most deviations from the model, especially if the author is planning on a sequence of stories and doesn't want to wrap up the story too tightly after each episode. That wasn't part of the classic model. 

The wandering storytellers of antiquity had to finish their stories in one session if they expected to get paid a few coins or a chicken from the villagers. Those storytellers were a poor lot, but very interesting and itinerant folks who had been a lot of places in a world where most villagers never walked out of sight of their homes -- their whole lives.  

I think it's awesome that we can continue that ancient legacy, even to the point of passing the hat once in a while to keep things going.


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