Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hero's Journey - Ordinary World

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Step One of the Hero’s Journey
Ordinary World

Good day, All,

In my last posting I discussed The Hero’s Journey and its twelve stages that make up THE formula for story telling through a novel. Today I’ll be talking with you about the first step in The Hero’s Journey called Ordinary World.

Ordinary World is designed to have your reader get to know and appreciate your hero before he sets out on his quest. Flesh him out as a human being, (or whatever alien applies…). Do this with dialogue and action that show who and what he is. Is your hero a murderer? He’s probably been in a bar fight or two. Does your green caterpillar turn into a butterfly on the last page? Better have some green leaves somewhere in your novel. Just show us who he is by words and physical movement.

Let’s look again to our classic Star Wars for inspiration. Think of the how we were first introduced to Luke. He was an orphan living with his Aunt and Uncle on their farm. One day they were purchasing farm equipment such as the robots R2D2 and 3CPO. They met with some salespeople, (actually desert wandering sales-creature-types with stun guns), and were negotiating over quality and price. Sounds pretty much like the typical farmer’s life from any period in history, doesn’t it? (Save for aliens and robots and such…)

Well, those scenes were Luke’s everyday life and they comprised his Ordinary World. In these scenes we learn Luke’s life goals, his frustrations and his youthful outlook toward others. We even know what he looks like. Mr. Spielberg made certain we knew the character pretty well. Most importantly however, we came to appreciate and even like Luke as a person.

Here’s a hint… During the Ordinary World, insure your reader comes to some sort of attachment to your hero. If they don’t, they quit reading. (“Quit reading” is formal business terminology for no word of mouth advertising…) We’ll talk about this on later blogs.

There is any number of ways to show this stage of the journey and I challenge you to write your novels in inventive ways to portray your hero’s Ordinary World. One of my favorites is the Ordinary World of the movie Sahara. The camera pans over an office where numerous newspaper and magazine articles are pinned to the walls. These clipping give the Ordinary World of the hero from his Naval Academy days until the time of the movie. Their use of these clippings was, in my opinion, a unique and effective methodology for introducing us to his Ordinary World. Without a line of text or a word of dialogue, we liked the hero before we even saw him on the big screen. So, don’t think narrative and dialogue are your only tools.

So there ya go… Give us someone we can like about your pivotal character and don’t forget to set up what it is he’s to lose. That should about do it.

Now, getting back to Luke, I have a question for you. When does Luke’s Ordinary World end and his Call to Adventure begin? If you can figure this out, you’re well on your way to understanding the next step in The Hero’s Journey.

Feel free to drop a line if you have any questions.

Good writing, everyone!

Till next time we meet.

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