Good day, Writers,
We’re learning how to write a novel by way of The Hero’s Journey, a classic “formula” for storytelling. We are using the original Stars Wars as our model and have seen Luke’s Ordinary World, watched him receive his Call to Adventure, saw him Refuse the Call and then he met, Obi Wan, his Mentor. Now Luke must face Crossing the Threshold.
Crossing the Threshold is an exciting time in your novel for it is here your hero leaves the world he has known and begins his epic quest. In the case of Star Wars, when does Luke cross his threshold? It’s when he returns after meeting with Obi Wan and finds his Aunt and Uncle killed by Federation troopers. In this scene, his very way of life is no more and choices must be made. He decides to become a Jedi. Why does he do that? Because it must happen to move the story foward.
Let’s evaluate this scene, shall we? Three things have happened here. The character is placed in a position where he must make some sort of decision, his only real option is to answer the earlier Call to Adventure and, finally, he made the correct choice by becoming a Jedi.
Looking at each of these stages of Crossing the Threshold, we find Luke’s entire life is gone and is given no choice but to decide something. Did he have other options? Sure. He could have simply gone to a friend’s home and taken a nap. He could have committed suicide. He could have become a hermit and spent his life fighting off sand people. There was any number of decisions available to him. However, had he not taken the choice he did, what would have happened to the story?
Next, Luke had to have not only a reason, but the reason, to take this very specific route. (Ah, motivation!) Why didn’t he take that nap? Why did Luke decide upon the Jedi route? Basically, the authors insured he had no other option. They forced this decision by developing the character to desire military training, having him meet Obi Wan and so on. The author’s made sure the right decision was the logical step to take.
Finally, Luke saw no other option than to make the very specific decision to become a Jedi.
So, how do we apply this to your novel?
You follow the same outline. You should put your hero in a position where he must make a decision. How do you do that? By destroying, metaphorically speaking, his Ordinary World. In A New Hope, that literally happens. It is not required you be quite so destructive, but in some way, your hero must face this traumatic crossroads. If he never faces this juncture, why would he ever leave on his journey?
Your hero must have motivation to take the route you wish him to take. In The New Hope Luke decides he must punish those responsible. Imagine if, instead of becoming a Jedi, Luke becomes an alcoholic. You can see how without the correct motivation, the story falls apart. So, too, your hero must receive the motivation to take the very specific action you want him to take.
Finally, your hero must take the correct action or, again, the story fails. What if your hero’s family is killed by a murderer and the hero decides to kill his aunts and uncles in retaliation? This decision makes no sense. His motivations must logically presage his actions.
He must face the problem, have the correct motivations for the particular action you wish him to take, and he must formally take the proper action. Without these three aspects, properly presented, you’ve cheated your readers and probably doomed your novel.
There you have it, Crossing the Threshold.
Until my next post, good writing.
Twitter.com/CPatrickSchulzeAuthor of Born to be Brother