December 7th, 2012, 08:53 PM
Putting aside the literal journey, I'll substitute the hero's/heroine's challenge or adventure. Traditionally, the hero's challenge involved a growing understanding of the broader world, while the heroine's challenge, even if it included an actual journey at some point, revolved around the domestic circle. I think that perhaps mainstream literature is more open to stories about the domestic circle (with male or female protagonists) than our genre is. Our idea of equality is to drop a female into the traditional male role -- which would all be well and good if we were better at writing stories about families and marriage and children, from both the male and female perspective.
December 8th, 2012, 12:39 PM
Shadow's Lure (June 2011)
Aye. And it helps to be mildly schizophrenic.
Originally Posted by KatG
December 8th, 2012, 05:56 PM
There's another frequent aspect to the hero's or heroine's journey. And that's that the protagonist journeys through a world in stress. Dorothy and the tornado/witch, Frodo and the return of Sauron, Huck Finn and the South just before the Civil War. The hero often is a reluctant observer/interactor in an expanded universe that they were not aware of. They effect and are affected by events surrounding them that appear beyond their control.
December 9th, 2012, 03:14 AM
Originally Posted by menaka
I would personally avoid it like the plague. Not because stories that adhere to the monomyth are inherently bad, but because writing by formula tends to be inherently bad. You should write the story you want to tell, and if it happens to have elements of the monomyth, so be it. But consciously and deliberately trying to crowbar a story into the monomyth, or inventing a story from scratch to adhere to the monomyth, is a really bad idea, in my humble opinion.
The other thing to consider about the monomyth is that it is pretty much universally rejected by those who actually study mythology, and its entire validity is entirely questionable. Even the specific examples Campbell cites don't include all 17 stages, nor do events occur in the order he proscribes, and his categorisation of the 17 stages are so vague as to be meaningless.
December 9th, 2012, 04:29 PM
Campbell twigged to commonalities. It's just a specific myth plotline is far less common. Types of stories -- murder mystery, coming of age tales, romance, war, etc. are very loose structures with which you can play in a lot of different directions. Secondary world fantasy is usually exploring a world, so coming of age power war stories are common devices to do that. Some of the world can be referenced by weaving in various technological, cultural and historic factors from Earth, but the combos are newer. In contemporary fantasy stories set on Earth or an alternate version of Earth, much of the world doesn't have to be explored, only referenced. Contemporary fantasy stories find using a structure of what's hidden or obscured being revealed to be a useful device, so suspense and mystery stories are more used structures there. Historical fantasy again needs to explore the particular time period world but can also reference things easily. History is also full of wars, which provide interesting settings to explore. So historical fantasy makes use of suspense, war, coming of age and other forms fairly frequently.
The issue, though, is not the use of forms. The issue is the belief that the forms are set and specific in plotline (such as the monomyth not just in symbols but in a whole set of stages that have to be met.) And that some areas in fiction always use those specific plotlines, instead of simply very general frameworks as devices. Movies tend to have more set plotlines because movies are a two hour video-audio light, camera angle, sound effect form of storytelling. It's not that limited, but scope of story can certainly be more limited than written fiction.
December 9th, 2012, 10:06 PM
That is the core of the problem new writers for any medium have. Wandering about in the fog, writers are desperate for any signposts to guide them to clarity.
Originally Posted by KatG
Often you'll find self-styled gurus lurking in the fog. They offer you a talisman or a technique. For just a tiny tiny fee, of course. Just remember to follow each and every step EXACTLY. And DON'T do this or that, or your project will fail.
I got a degree in TV/film production before I became a software engineer. I've remained interested in the audio-video entertainment field. For a couple of years a decade ago I was part of a screen-writer's group in Hollywood. We had weekly meetings, and often there was one of these snake-oil sellers there pimping their products.
Originally Posted by KatG
Hollywood especially has people desperate for clarity, for checklists. And not just the writers. Producers risk millions of dollars, so yearn for detailed formulas for success, even modest success. So snake-oil sellers abound.
You'll hear, for instance, that the ideal movie length is 120 minutes, and so script lengths MUST be 120 pages, the average page translating to one minute of screen time. Page 20 MUST contain a "plot pivot" which "swings the movie around into a new direction." And so on.
Some of these gurus do offer good advice. Often culled from their predecessors. Aristotle is a prime source of this advice. Smart writers take in the advice, trash the parts that don't fit their needs, and use the parts that do.
December 10th, 2012, 02:11 PM
My daughter saw Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist and liked it very much. She is currently reading the novel the movie was adapted from and also likes it but finds it to be quite different from the movie. The movie took many parts of the novel, but invented a plot framework that wasn't there in the novel but that worked better for the type of movie they were building, one that relied more heavily on the music soundtrack (audio experience) than the book needed to bother with. The novel was more about internal stuff going inside the two main characters. The novel had more stuff going on with the side characters that gave those characters more, different roles to play in the story than in the movie, where the side characters, because time is limited in a movie, serve very specific functions. So we've been talking about the differences and why those differences are there, which interests her because she's interested in movie making and writing. She's also, because she is taking a social sciences course, been seeing all the cross-over between psychology and cultural studies and English literature and poetry she's studying in English.
We are, essentially, studying our own minds in stories, but the way we do it depends on our own needs and interests and the aspects of the medium we're using and how those aspects can be bent. You can make a movie that is very book like and a book that is very movie like. Or you can do something different. The hero's journey, complete with the basic steps -- hero moves from his world into another world, is transformed by it, takes those lessons back into his world that benefits him and others -- it's a good one for a movie. You can do lots of different things with it to give a video-audio immersion for a few hours. You can do visual imagery with it where the visual imagery is more important than the actual plot to the experience of the film.
But in books, the hero journey in its steps is frequently used but not as common. A wider version of the hero's journey -- a protagonist encounters a situation that requires resolve -- is very commonly used, but again, not the be all and end all. SF and fantasy are stories that frequently build on action to utilize their speculative elements. And from that, they use suspense forms and elements a great deal, often even without high action in a story. Sometimes that's going to create a hero situation, but sometimes it creates the opposite. Novels are not necessarily linear, external like movies, coherently whole, or succinct. That's not always the goal of the narrative.
But one thing the hero's journey idea is useful for in learning about it, is that it can make us more aware of the connection between protagonist (and main characters,) and the situation the protagonist is put in. It makes us think about structure. But that shouldn't make us feel trapped by structure.
December 21st, 2012, 12:04 PM
hero's journey and monomyth
It's only cliche if not understood or executed well. So many great stories use it: http://www.youtube.com/clickokdotcodotuk
Originally Posted by menaka
Many of the assumptions in this thread are incorrect (only applies to males not females, only applies to the young not old).....
It's so omnipotent, I would try to master it.
December 22nd, 2012, 07:59 PM
Thank you everyone! There seems to be a lot of opinions and ideas regarding this... After going through this thread, and processing all the information (quite a lot of info really... i'm still processing actually) I feel that hero's journey is a structural tool, one that is worth learning and then tweaking to suit the needs of the story.
also, i found this interesting article about story structure, one that is followed by the creator of Community - http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/09/mf_harmon/
P.S. - i just realized that My Best Friend's Wedding follows Hero's journey :|
December 23rd, 2012, 03:17 AM
Everything follows the Hero's Journey - when you go back and look for it. How effectively it follows may depend on two things: whether the writer knew the structure and used it deliberately, and whether the writer knew not to simply scribble out the word "hero" and put in the protagonist's name instead...
Last edited by Noumenon; December 23rd, 2012 at 03:21 AM.
December 23rd, 2012, 03:26 PM
Pro Bono Graphic Designer
Good afternoon from the Mountain Time Zone, Menaka.
Originally Posted by menaka
Most everyone that I have met has been equally fascinated with the Hero's Journey upon studying it. You are not alone in this.
That being said, it has become common practice among the creative media industries to utilize Blake Snyder's story beats, as featured in "Save the Cat." Both his and Campbell's works represent a large portion of the academic studies I have embarked upon within my Creative Media degree. You can find a "Story Beat" worksheet at Snyder's site here Blake Snyder Tools If you would like an expanded review of the beats, let me know and I will break out my college notes. Any questions that I cannot answer, I can leverage the experience of my Guru/Professors, all of whom own their own studios or have worked in the story/movie industry for quite some time now.
But please remember this when you consider any of these narrative structures, as this is something MANY people forget after reviewing all the complexities of narrative structures. The truth is that, by instinct, you already know the below text to be true.
ALL stories boil down to the following:
"? - ! - . "
That is to say, it starts off with a question/need for change, there is calamity, action, and conflict that results from this question/need for change, and then it ends. How many "?", "!", and "." are placed into your story is entirely up to you and I've seen authors stretch this out into a convoluted set of beats that look more like "? - !!!-??-...-?!?!?-!." (which is the joy of books, you can do as you wish)
Example: If you're Carl Sagan, your story may read out more like this "? - ..............................- ?????????????????? - ............. - ! - ??????????????? - ." (No offense to Mr. Sagan, but the last book of his I read was loooooong)
The other thing to remember is that we all read stories because we want to see change, we want to relate to the changes and how they happen and who they happen too, and we read sci-fi/fantasy because we want to see change in a fascinating setting, with technologies and worlds we do not encounter in our daily lives. We do not read stories about a duck who was born, and he wandered about until one day he turned into a swan. There is no conflict listed in this story. But we would read a story about a duck who was born, but was born so ugly that he experienced continual conflict, and after surviving all his conflicts he is redeemed in the end because he grew into what others consider a very beautiful swan. There is much more there, you see.
So when you're wandering around in your proverbial fog, do start with your instincts (yes, you! I'm talking to you, you have a writers instinct. I know you do, because you've wanted to write in the first place and that is because that instinct is there). This instinct will at least tell you to pick a direction in that fog. This instinct, this passion, this flame to write, will be your bread and butter for all of your writing journey, because without your instincts, you will simply give up. The narratives can only be beneficial to your instincts during those moments of writing lulls, and only after your instinct has paved the path in the first place. Even then, the narratives structures really only server to hone the main point of your story, to best communicate the main change/transition of the story, and to best ensure that the audience can relate to the change in a meaningful way. Consider them an "idea tool" as necessary.
I hope this opinion was helpful.
January 2nd, 2013, 10:22 PM
I just saw the first Hobbit movie. This did not happen. There was no end. Of course, that's if we're making the period idea be resolution.
Originally Posted by virangelus
You can basically get vaguer. Every story, again, is about a character who is in a situation. (That situation may not be linear or cohesive.) Stories can build other stories of characters into a main story and that compilation of stories can get quite large and involved with each other or operate mostly in parallel.
Conflict, calamity and action do not necessarily occur in stories. There are quite a few stories in which the duckling wanders around without people saying that he is ugly. (And technically that wandering around is action.) Many of them are children's stories. But SFF often shows off its speculative elements as action/calamity/conflict, specifically as suspense -- danger. And in horror, it's an element of the form of story. Short stories, also, take on different forms than novels may take. I can write a short story about someone ringing a doorbell and it may be interesting even if does not involve a conflict. I can explore a mood and it may not be a calamity mood. I may be writing about love and healing and using imagery of landscape.
The reality is that most of us, even those of us who plan everything out carefully, write pattern backwards. We do the story, then we can see its structural patterns and may manipulate them further. The patterns have more to do with modes of storytelling, all of which become very familiar to every average person again. That's why one story may seem to copy another story, even if the author of one never read the other or it turns out published before the author believed to have created the template. That's why authors talk about the story they are writing suddenly going in another "direction" -- direction is structure and all the things attached to structure. Most of us will have change and conflict in our stories, but in written fiction, you are not worrying about how things look at the one hour mark. Or if you are doing three Hobbit movies. (The movie was actually a lot of fun by the way.)
January 4th, 2013, 08:44 PM
Pro Bono Graphic Designer
KatG, I haven't seen the movie version of the Hobbit, but being a fan of the book I can tell you there WAS a question/need for change. For Bilbo, there was that "Took" side of him that DID want to get out, that DID hope that Gandalf would come back to his door But even if you feel this is subjective, and does not count, you can at the very least say that the need for change was Thorin's need, and he thrust that upon Bilbo, with Gandalf's help.
Originally Posted by KatG
Even in the ringing of the doorbell, I also see a question. What brings this person to the doorbell anyway? Who are they expecting to see? One of the joys of such a story would be the questions/conflicts that subtly arise in the reader, even if they are not overtly spelled out within the prose itself.
Also, as I pointed out in my previous post, one of the joys of fiction literature is that you do not have to worry about the one-hour mark. You can put in as many questions, periods, and exclamations as you can/want, as long as it seems effective to you, the writer, at the end of the day.
In short, however, I feel that KatG and I are saying the same thing. KatG is doing the lovely job of pointing out that questions and conflicts come in many ways, and many levels, with many subtleties.
January 20th, 2013, 11:40 AM
Originally Posted by virangelus
The need for change is in the movie too....e.g. Bilbo's initial unadventurous state, referenced by Gandalf. It's there on a few levels.
January 20th, 2013, 02:12 PM
Well yes, all stories are again boiled down to a character facing a situation, which may involve a need for change, and all stories are made up of questions, large and small, some of which are answered and some of which are not. But Virangelus seemed initially talking about a plot format that starts with question/change, involves conflict and then has a definite end that resolves the initial question. And not all stories do that. That's a different thing from simply question and possible answer chains that can occur in stories. The Hobbit first movie had an ending; but it was not an end of the conflict raised and the question raised. And the movie does not follow the Hero's Journey format that Campbell identified either, in that Bilbo does not yet go back home and help others with the wisdom he has learned.
Originally Posted by AndrewT
It is, I feel, dangerous to try and tie all stories to something such as resolution, conflict, change, etc., because that squashes the terrain and sets up places writers are supposedly not supposed to go. It is trying to set the landscape rather than letting authors find it. Now, in film, a certain amount of that will have to be done. There are constraints of the medium, it is a collaborative medium, etc. But in written fiction, it's open space. There are structural patterns abounding and you can see them, over and over, like fish swimming in the water, but there is not one plot format to rule them all, nor if you do some things that are identified in a typical pattern idea, like boy meets girl, etc., are you necessarily following them to that pattern or in the specific way.
That being said, I think wondering what questions interest you isn't a bad place to start either. And if you want to follow need for change, conflict, change resolution, then the question might be what sort of change. As we know, the change may not be heroic.
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