This post is part of a series of posts sponsored by SCBWI Florida Tampa Bay area writers. We invite you to join us in this online book study of THE WRITER’S JOURNEY: MYTHIC STRUCTURE FOR WRITERS, Third Edition by Christopher Vogler.
Appendices, pages 297-338
Contributor: Teddie Aggeles
Still Alive and Well
In the story of Frankenstein or Young Frankenstein, the heroes never doubt their creations will come to life. All writers should create with that conviction, because, according to Vogler, all stories are alive.
Unconvinced? Take a look at his reasoning:
· People connect with one another; they also relate to stories.
· People stir your emotions, so can a story.
· People teach lessons. Stories can, too.
· People can be a catalyst for change. So can a powerful tale.
Writers know that readers slip into the role of the hero. He or she may be someone they admire, someone they’d like to be in real life, or maybe the hero has done all the wrong things and a reader sees that he/she is on the same doomed path.
Under the guise of entertainment using romance, action, drama, mystery, and comedy, stories send a message into the world. However subtle, a writer has a purpose for creating a tale.
But wait, there’s more. Vogler believes stories:
· Are powerful and mysterious creations of the human mind
· Have healing powers
· Have survival value for the human race
· Act as metaphors by which readers measure/adjust their lives by comparing theirs to characters
· Are like compasses and maps helping readers to feel oriented
· Are conscious and purposeful
While the basic metaphor for stories is that of the journey, Vogler believes good stories show at least two journeys – the inner and outer.
Wishing and Hoping
A hero’s journey often begins with a wish. Maybe the wish is to escape a tough situation. Maybe it’s a longing for love. The wish can be spoken or simply implied. But knowing what the hero wishes, orients readers in the story. And the wish sets the hero on his or her journey. Vogler follows the belief of Carl Jung, that spoken or not, when conditions are right, the story itself will call the adventure into being. In other words, the story is alive! And the story’s sneaky response to the hero’s wish is often to send in a messenger.
Sending Out an SOS
It’s a crap shoot whether a writer knows a messenger is coming or not. Sometimes, the door opens and there stands an old man. Or the hero walks outside and up jumps a frog, or fairy is swept in on a gust of wind. Surprise! That messenger is there as a direct response to the wish of the hero.
Remember, the story is alive. It knows things even the writer doesn’t. Sit back and feel the tingle, the story is just taking off.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
What a hero wants isn’t always what he or she needs. Roadblocks tossed out by the writer push the hero to take pause, succeed or fail. Because of those dilemmas, the hero will find a new state of awareness. Often it comes with the help of that messenger.
Powerful stories are tricky. Though obstacles pop up that may be life threatening, they are also life affirming. Those lessons learned aren’t random. Nope. Or should it be, NOBA!
Vogler says, “Not only…but also, or NOBA,” is the ritual of obstacles that temporarily thwart a hero, but reinforce learning, It’s a universal teaching tool. NOBA helps the hero to gain awareness and through that experience the reader learns too.
Vogler uses these examples:
1. A hero who might be distraught because of a disability, but that disability may lead to her ultimate victory.
2. A character whose habits not only hold him back, but may ultimately destroy him.
A Change Is Gonna Come
Once a writer pushes the hero through so many obstacles that he or she now ditches the wishes. According to Vogler, that moment is when the hero becomes a willing participant in accomplishing the goal. Vogler defines will as a wish concentrated and focused into action.
In the fairytale, Rumpelstiltskin, the girl who promised her first born child to the little man who spun straw into gold and saved her life, had wished for a rescuer. When the little man eventually came for that child, the woman wished she didn’t have to turn the baby over to him. She had to protect her child. Only if she could utter the man’s name could she keep the baby. Her wish suddenly turned to will. She took action. Sent scouts to scour the countryside and learn the little man’s name. When he came knocking, she had what she wanted and needed.
From the start of a hero’s journey, the reality of what will take place has to be established. Writers make that happen through polarity, or by using opposites. Maybe the hero’s friend is against him. Maybe the hero is looking for a love he abandoned on their wedding day and now is ready for marriage. However the polarity is arranged, the story is about the journey for something to happen. Readers should see small changes as the plot and character arc advance. Maybe it’s a glimpse that the hero understand what he or she has done wrong. Or the hero wonders for a moment if the journey is really worth the struggle.
A few examples of polarity in characters:
· Sloppy – Neat
· Introvert – Extrovert
· Controlling – Impulsive
· High Strung – Low Key
· Materialistic – Spiritual
Polarity whether in romance, comedy, mystery, or drama creates tension and ramps up suspense and that attracts the audience. Writers who create multilayer stories through opposing forces leave the door open for readers to feel emotional highs and lows. That connection means readers cry when the hero’s sad. They laugh when she laughs. Or shrieks when he shrieks! And when as part of the character arc the hero—even for a minute—shows a switch in that polarity, the audience notices.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Readers picture heroes one way when the story begins. Hopefully by the story’s end, the character is changed. Vogler says the power of a story can change readers’ minds and thoughts, too. The connection between the hero’s journey and the readers can be so strong that when the hero learns a lesson, readers may too. How’s that for entertainment?
Please Release Me
Vogler warns writers to not use polarity to oversimplify complex situations. He suggests showing nuances of changes in your characters’ behavior. Readers will feel a part of the universal polarities of good and evil, male and female, life and death. And when the hero changes, conquers fears, gets the boy, lands that job, finds his birth mother or saves a life, readers can find a healthy release. What readers often find woven into and worked out through that living, powerful story on the page is a little piece of their own lives.
Meet Today’s Contributor—Teddie Aggeles
Theodora “Teddie” Aggeles is a native of St. Petersburg and a freelance writer. She’s written for the past six years as a Tampa Bay Times correspondent. She also writes educational programs for nurses on how to recognize, care for and support victims of domestic violence and child abuse, and is the author of Answering the Call: Nurses of Post 122. She is happiest when she’s writing her YA novels as a member of Skywriters and her PBs as a member of Picture Books and Java (PB&J). Follow Teddie at: http://teddieaggeles.blogspot.com/