Thoughts on Mythic Structure: Approach to the Inmost Cave

DIVERGENT

This is Part 6 of my series on the hero’s journey, or monomyth.

1. This stage of the journey is when the story begins to coalesce around a major confrontation with the antagonist.

The part of the journey that falls under “Tests, Allies and Enemies” can take up quite a bit of the story after the hero crosses over into the world of the adventure. But now everything has to begin to come together and focus on the main battle against the forces of antagonism.

It’s at this point where the main task in The Wizard of Oz changes from “off to see the Wizard” to “acquire the Wicked Witch’s broom and bring it back to the Wizard.” The Scarecrow says, “But we’d have to kill her to get it!” It’s when the Ghostbusters realize there’s more going on than just random ghost sightings, and that an ancient Babylonian god is returning to destroy humanity.

In other words, this is when sh*t starts to get real for your hero.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Mythic Structure: Approach to the Inmost Cave”

Thoughts on Mythic Structure: Crossing the First Threshold

This is Part 4 of my series on monomyth, or the hero’s journey.

1. Crossing the first threshold is the transition from Act 1 to Act 2 of your story.

Up to this point, your hero is still connected to her ordinary world. In many models of mythic structure, the first part of the story is referred to as “separation,” the second “initiation” and the third “return.” Crossing the threshold is the final separation from everything that is familiar to the hero and begins her initiation into a new world–the world of the adventure.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Mythic Structure: Crossing the First Threshold”

Thoughts on Mythic Structure: The Meeting with the Mentor

aryasyrio

This is Part 3 in my series on mythic structure, or the hero’s journey.

1. Even though this stage of the journey is positioned after The Call to Adventure and The Refusal of the Call, the Meeting with the Mentor can happen at any point in the story.

It is common for the hero to meet their mentor figure at some point during the first act (first third or so of the story) but there is no restriction on when the hero can meet her mentor for the first time. Dorothy doesn’t meet Glinda until after she crosses the first threshold (enters Oz). Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, on the other hand, meets swordmaster Syrio Forel before she crosses her first threshold (escapes King’s Landing in the guise of a boy). Continue reading “Thoughts on Mythic Structure: The Meeting with the Mentor”

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Hero

dorothy1939

1. Heroes often have an unusual origin story.

In spite of some people nowadays groaning at the origin stories in superhero comics and movies, they have a mythological basis. In folk lore and mythology, heroes may have an unusual conception. (Zeus was always turning himself into various animals so he could get it on with mortal women; several heroes in mythology were conceived this way.)

Or, they may be related to royalty, but for some reason are separated from their family. For instance, Perseus and his mother Danae are tossed into the sea by her father the king, because he was told by a seer that his grandson would one day kill him. Percy Jackson is a modern interpretation of Perseus, with a similar origin story (though his father is Poseidon, not Zeus). Continue reading “Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Hero”

The Great Villain Blogathon: Waldo Lydecker, Laura, 1944

waldo1

This post is part of the Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin, and Kristina of Speakeasy  — see all the movie baddies at any of these three blogs.

YES, there will be SPOILERS.

“I don’t use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom.” – Waldo Lydecker

When it comes to film noir, the 1944 film Laura is a bit of an odd duck. Most detective noirs widen their scope to the lower echelons of society, including the underworld of organized crime. Rich characters may be revealed as slumming among the lower dregs of society, as drug addicts or other kinds of addicts (i.e. The Big Sleep). The crime may have international and/or political implications (i.e. The Maltese Falcon and Chinatown).

Laura never leaves the upper crust world of its handful of characters. It’s structured more like an English cozy mystery. Instead of a matronly busybody, a professional detective investigates the crime.

The film opens after Laura Hunt’s (Gene Tierney) murder has occurred and is narrated by Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb). He is a newspaper columnist and radio commentator who was her friend and mentor. Police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) questions him. He also interviews her fiancé, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) and aunt, Anne Treadwell (Judith Anderson). Continue reading “The Great Villain Blogathon: Waldo Lydecker, Laura, 1944”

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Shadow

ClariceLecter

I will be participating in The Great Villain Blogathon next week, so what better way to set the tone than a post about the shadow archetype?

1. I’ve already done a post with tips for creating a great antagonist, but shadow characters don’t necessarily have to be antagonists or villains.

As I will demonstrate with examples, it’s perfectly possible for shadow characters to have functions in a story other than that of the antagonist.

2. That said, shadow characters make fantastic antagonists.
Continue reading “Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Shadow”

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Shapeshifter

ben-lost

In Part 6 of my series about archetypes, I will examine the Shapeshifter:

1. As the name implies, a shapeshifter is a character who is not what he or she appears to be, either to the hero, the reader, or both.

2. Shapeshifting may be a literal part of the character. Obvious examples would be vampires, werewolves, magicians and wizards. The Harry Potter universe has several shapeshifting characters, including Professor McGonagall, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black. Dr. Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson’s story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde changes himself into a psychopath by taking a potion he invented.

Continue reading “Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Shapeshifter”

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Threshold Guardian

inigofezzikvizzini

In part 5 of my series on archetypes, I will examine the role of the Threshold Guardian:

1. Traditionally, the threshold guardian was a person or thing that stood in the hero’s way just as he or she enters the “new world” of the adventure. This was nearly always the first event that happened at the transition point between Act 1 and Act 2 of a story, and again between Act 2 and Act 3. An example from mythology would be Cerberus, the three-headed dog that protects the entrance to the underworld. When Orpheus travels to the underworld to retrieve his dead love, he must get past Cerberus. (A modern variation of Cerberus is Fluffy, the three-headed dog that guarded the Sorcerer’s Stone in the first Harry Potter book.)

Continue reading “Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Threshold Guardian”

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Fool

This is Part 4 of my series about archetypes. In this article, I will examine the Fool. 1. Don’t assume “fool” is interchangeable with “stupid.” While some fool characters may be stupid, that’s not the essence of the archetype. Elizabeth Bennet’s mother in Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice is a very silly woman, but she’s smart enough to know her daughters must marry to avoid ending up in poverty. 2. Don’t assume the fool’s sole function is comic relief. Again, these characters may provide comic relief, but that’s not the only reason they exist in a story. 3. The … Continue reading Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Fool

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Herald

In Part 3 of my series, “Writers, Know Your Archetypes,” I will examine the role of The Herald archetype in a story: 1. The primary function of herald characters is to give the protagonist “The Call to Adventure.” Or, to put it in more modern terms, their function is to kick off the plot. The herald says or does something that notifies the protagonist that he or she must deal with something of critical importance. In mythology, the god Hermes, literally the messenger of the gods of Olympus, would inform the protagonist of tasks the gods wanted him to accomplish. … Continue reading Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Herald

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Mentor

In Part 2 of my series, “Writers, Know Your Archetypes,” I want to study the role of the mentor. Here are some things to keep in mind about mentor characters in your stories: 1. The main function of a mentor is, of course, to teach and guide the protagonist. The word originates from Homer’s The Odyssey. Mentor was the name of a character who guided Odysseus’ son Telemachus during a search for his long-missing father. He was actually the goddess Athena who took on the form of Odysseus’ old friend. As Athena is the goddess of wisdom, mentors, not surprisingly, … Continue reading Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Mentor

Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Trickster

archetype noun a perfect or typical specimen an original model or pattern; prototype (psychoanalysis) one of the inherited mental images postulated by Jung as the content of the collective unconscious a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, etc —from the English Collins Dictionary Writers are sometimes wary of archetypes, worried they will lead to characters that come off as unoriginal. But archetypes are a wonderful tool in the writer’s arsenal, and, as I hope to demonstrate, their use is only limited by the author’s own creativity and imagination. Let’s start with one of my all-time favorite archetypes, the … Continue reading Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Trickster