Monthly Archives: July 2013

Saturday Morning Version of “The Hero’s Journey”

Two words: hand sock.  You’ll see.

Really, we need to take storytelling more seriously than this… which in an ironic twist means, this IS serious.  Even when it’s hilariously rendered.

It’s also potentially confusing as hell.  Which is why I write about it using what I believe to be more accessible, clearer terminology and modeling.  It’s the same stuff.  And why I’ve added some clarifications of my own at the end of this post.

You’ve heard of The Hero’s Journey.  

Chances are you’ve studied it.  Joseph Campbell gets credit for it (calls it a Monomyth, a term borrowed from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake), as presented in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces (1949… it didn’t hit the bestseller list until 1988 — there’s always hope — when PBS aired a special entitled The Power of Myth).

This is how it’s done, no matter how you label the parts.  Notice that it’s flexible, something you can spin to your own needs (ie., some of the players in this story model can be embodied by a single character, serving different catalytic purposes).

The more we see it from different angles, the deeper it sinks in.

Thanks to Storyfix friend and frequent contributor Art Holcomb for this one.  Watch, laugh and learn.

Here’s what The Hero’s Journey looks like as a graphic (from Wikipedia).  The story begins at the top (12:00 noon position), progressing clockwise… literally.

This chart outlines the monomyth.

A Few Thoughts on This
This model is not infallible or absolute, it is like most principles, general in nature.  For example, the video says that the HERO is just an Average Joe.  Not always true.  That’s limiting, and you can come up with a library full of exception.
The HERALD has a role, and this mission trumps it actually being a character… it can come into the story in non-character ways.  Because… the HERALD is the FIRST PLOT POINT.  That mission IS a firm principle… how it enters the story is your call.
The MENTOR character… great idea.  Hard to pull off, though, when your hero is a lone wolf.  Don’t force this into the story because Joseph Campbell says to.
THRESHOLD GUARDIANS… are some combination of the villain and the villain’s henchmen, and/or any other form of antagonistic force.  These often star in your Pinch Points.
SHAPE SHIFTER… when any character either reveals a hidden truth about themselves, including your villain.  Useful as a mean of delivering a Plot Point or, more often, the Mid-Point, which is a great place for this.
SHADOW… that’s easy, that’s your main antagonist.  The bad guy.  The villain.  The term applies when that character’s true nature and agenda has been veiled through the course of the story, only to be revealed when it matters.  Which is often at the Second Plot Point.
As food for thought goes, you now have a virtual banquet of flavors and courses in front of you.  Bon appetite!
The video shown here is from the great Glove and Boots Puppet Blog (I know I know, sounds… kinky… it’s not that), which posts most of its content on Youtube.
As you might have guessed, the guy in the framed picture on the wall behind the puppets in this video is Joseph Campbell.


Filed under Write better (tips and techniques)

When Words Get In Your Way

Okay, that title is my way of creating some sort of linkage between the brand/mission of this website and the content of this particular post.  I get about three emails a day from SEO guys telling me I suck, so this is for them.

Then again, the post itself is really for you.  We’re word people, right?

This one cracked me up, and I wanted to share the love.  Not sure where it originated – it landed in my inbox with encouragement to forward if I wanted to avoid something horrible showing up in my life – but it is worth sharing. A good laugh always is.

Then again, it does demonstrate the power of the words we choose, and the way in which context controls everything.

And that, when from the mouths of babes, word selection sets the humor bar very high.

Enjoy.  I’m off to Portland to teach three workshops at the Willamette Writers Conference.  Tough crowd, wish me luck.


How Asparagus Got Its Name

A first grade child was asked to write a book report on the entire Bible. Here is what he wrote:

The Children’s Bible in a Nutshell

In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas. The Bible says, “The Lord thy God is one,” but I think He must be a lot older than that.

Anyway, God said, “Give me a light!” and someone did.

Then God made the world.

He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren’t embarrassed because mirrors hadn’t been invented yet.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden… not sure what they were driven in though, because they didn’t have cars.

Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel. Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.

One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check.

After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.

Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh’s people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable.

God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include: don’t lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor’s stuff.

Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.

One of Moses’ best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Genital and the fence fell over on the town.

After Joshua came David. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn’t sound very wise to me.

After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore.

There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don’t have to worry about them.

After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of The New Testament. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn. (I wish I had been born in a barn too, because my Mom is always saying to me, “Close the door! Were you born in a barn?” It would be nice to say, ”As a matter of fact, I was.”)

During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Republicans. Jesus also had twelve opossums. The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him.

Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount. But the Democrats and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn’t stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead.

Anyways, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of Revolution.


Filed under other cool stuff