As a reader of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, it felt decidedly strange going into the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones. With the exception of some parts from A Feast of Crows, going forward the TV series is moving beyond events in the first five published books. We’re still waiting for publication of The Winds of Winter, the penultimate book in the series.
Last year I wrote an article about the “strong female character” which was very well received. (It was even featured by WordPress in their “Freshly Pressed” section.) Since then, I’ve been thinking about doing a series devoted to individual characters that I consider “strong.”
This series will not be limited to female characters–I will include male characters–and may even decide to write about a few that aren’t human.
As I said, I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, but really got excited about starting it a few weeks ago. Because I encountered a character that I believe is perfect to kick off this series.
I had heard many good things about Australian writer John Marsden’s young adult Tomorrow series. The first book, Tomorrow, When the War Began, first came out over 20 years ago, in 1993. There are seven books in the series, and a sequel series called “The Ellie Chronicles.” I finally downloaded the first book from Audible and was immediately blown away by the characters and the story.
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.
This is Part 5 of my series on monomyth or the hero’s journey.
1. After your hero crosses the threshold into the world of adventure, the rules of the new world are a good place to start when it comes to testing your hero. Here are some ways he can get into trouble right away:
Ignorance of the rules: For instance, in Back to the Future, Marty doesn’t realize at first that he has traveled back into the past. When he crashes the DeLorean into someone’s barn and emerges from it in a hazmat suit, he looks utterly alien to the family who own it. He is surprised to find himself on the business end of a shotgun and must find a way to escape.
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.
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”
I recently started watching the new TV series Outlander, based on the popular books by Diana Gabaldon. I have never read the books. The series sounded like something I might enjoy, about a woman who time-travels to 18th Century Scotland.
After watching two episodes, I’m already done with it.
I see people raving about the show on Twitter and other social media. Like Charlie Brown, I don’t know how to argue with success. Something is resonating with many viewers, and I don’t mind that they are enjoying it.
But to me it’s a major disappointment. It made me think of how the term “strong female character” is so often misconstrued. Continue reading “The Strong Female Character: I Do Not Think That Means What Some People Think It Means”
Had a mishap in the kitchen this weekend and am nursing a mild burn, so I didn’t get around to writing a blog post. I’m reblogging this oldie. Hope you enjoy!
1. Don’t become over-dependent on character charts. I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of character charts. I don’t think a lot of the information on them is necessary for creating (or for a writer “getting a grip” on) characters. No one cares how many freckles or moles your character has, or what the character’s favorite flavor of ice cream is, or that the dog they had when they were growing up was a poodle named Muffy, or what job they had when they were 17, unless a detail like that is critical to the story.
The worst thing about character charts is some people fill them out and think they’re done creating their characters.
If you feel that character charts are helpful, by all means, use them. Just realize when you finish one that you’re not done, you’ve only just begun.
2. That said, details are important. Without…
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Hi, not feeling so great this weekend, so I dug up this from the archives. Hope you enjoy!
SPOILERS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES AND PSYCHO FOLLOW (in case you’re the one person on earth who is unfamiliar with them):
HBO has been running the movie Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 a lot lately. Since it’s my favorite of the Harry Potter movies, I’ve watched it several times.
Love it. A perfect ending to a great series.
One thing struck me on multiple viewings that hadn’t during all the years of reading the books and watching the movies:
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was a manipulative bastard.
I cried like everyone else when he was killed by Snape in Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince. You better believe I did. For the longest time I didn’t want to believe he was dead.
But watching the last movie–wow. It struck me that Dumbledore was a puppet-master like few others. As Snape put it, he raised Harry “up for…
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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”
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”
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”
I will be participating in The Great Villain Blogathon next week! My subject is Waldo Lydecker from the classic film noir Laura. Please take a moment to check out this AMAZING line-up of bad guys and gals!
No new post this week–I’m suffering from a muscle spasm in my back, so sitting at the computer is kind of difficult. So I dove into the archives and came up with this post. Hope you enjoy!
This argument is made all the time, and there’s some truth to it. There are some very successful characters that never have a character arc. James Bond is the one most mentioned. While he was retooled somewhat when Daniel Craig took over the role in the movies, the character has never undergone a significant arc. Miss Marple never has an arc, or Hercule Poirot, or Stephanie Plum.
See a pattern here? They’re all characters in a long-running series of stand-alone books. While there are series characters that have arcs (I would argue Indiana Jones is an example) most don’t have them. Mainly because having the characters change would disrupt the series too much.
2. However, not giving your character one can simply be laziness on your part. Just because there are…
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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.