Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Study--Post #5

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.

Post #5
Book 2, pages 81-114
Contributor: Sue LaNeve 

Rob Sanders inspired the writers of Tampa Bay with this Call to Adventure, inspiring me to follow Christopher Vogler into Book Two, Stages of the (Writer’s) Journey.

Before beginning a tale, we storytellers have significant choices that set the mood by which our readers will experience our work. Vogler cites director Max Reinhardt’s creation of atmosphere before the curtain goes up with the title, promotion, music, lighting, and costumed ushers, all affecting the audience’s experience and expectations. Similarly in publishing, our title, opening image, whether or not we use a prologue all possess metaphorical power to set the stage.
-        Vogler illustrates how a title and its graphical representation –in this case, the words God and Father and a puppeteer’s strings which describe Don Corleone’s power in the Godfather—can be a multi-leveled metaphor.
-        In the film Unforgiven, the opening scene alludes to backstory and what is to follow when Clint Eastwood is seen digging his wife’s grave.
-        Regarding a prologue Vogler states that “the needs of the story will always dictate the best approach.” Prologue may provide backstory, set mood, and hint of extraordinary events to follow. Some prologues seek to disorient the reader, helping them to accept incredible events to follow. Once we make these opening choices, we begin our tale by establishing the multi-functional

How do we differentiate between dark and light if we have one without the other?  Vogler says we must know our hero’s ORDINARY WORLD to appreciate her journey into SPECIAL WORLDS, and that we make it much different from the special world “so audience and hero will experience a dramatic change when the threshold is finally crossed.”

Though seemingly boring, the ORDINARY WORLD has significant functions. It is the stage for:
-        the conflicts and problems the hero will face in the special world
-        foreshadowing characters or events to follow.
-        the story’s action and dramatic questions whose answers will ultimately solve the hero’s inner and outer problems. Both must exist for the characters to seem fully fleshed out.
-        the hero’s entrance—her clothes, actions, mood, goals will affect her relationship with the reader. Her actions should echo character and her normal attitude, setting the stage for future problems and/or solutions—unless, of course, you are purposefully trying to disguise her true nature from the reader.
-        a place to express the story’s theme—what you are trying to say, the “underlying statement or assumption about an aspect of life.” Vogler believes it should be stated in Act One in some way and set the stage for everything else to echo it.

Vogler advises us to create a hero who is not necessarily likeable, but relatable so the reader will project “a part of their ego in the character.” Give them universally experienced goals, drives, desires or needs.

Our hero may lack something—compassion, or perhaps a mate or parent. Like Aristotle’s Greek theory of tragedy, every fleshed-out hero has some tragic flaw that shows his humanity. It could be a wound, either physical or emotional to make them sympathetic and interesting. We writers may keep this wound secret from our audience, while still creating a character with a personal history and sense of realism. Says Vogler, “We all bear some scars from past humiliations, rejections, disappointments, abandonments, and failures.”

We must know early on what’s at stake if the hero succeeds or loses and we must make it significant enough to make the reader care.

Finally, regarding backstory and exposition, Vogler discusses how difficult it is to do this elegantly and prefers to let the reader work to figure it out through the course of the story.

Within the ORDINARY WORLD, the “seeds of change” are waiting for a something “to germinate” them—what Joseph Campbell termed THE CALL TO ADVENTURE (aka the trigger, catalyst, inciting or initiating event.)

It may be:
-        a declaration of some sort
-        a stirring within the hero
-        a temptation to travel or be seduced
-        unconscious metaphorical imagery and dreams
-        synchronous ideas or events that take on meaning
-        the last straw that kicks the hero into motion

The “CALL” may:
-        come from a HERALD and/or MENTOR archetype
-        present the hero with an invitation or challenge
-        kick away the crutches that keep the Hero from taking risks
-        create disorientation and discomfort necessary for growth
-        be a villain surveying a hero’s territory—alerting the audience, more than the hero, that something is about to change
-        be from a lack or need presented to the hero
-        result from the hero having no other choices but to change or create change.

Some stories may have more than one CALL

The hero has received the CALL, but what will she do? This stop in the action:
-        conveys that inherent danger awaits our hero
-        may express our hero's reluctance from having learned her lessons
Volger says audiences enjoy seeing the reluctance overcome.

Even a hero who is a willing Seeker faces refusal to the CALL, often by others who warn of what’s ahead—THRESHHOLD GUARDIANS—who:
-        block the hero from beginning her journey
-        test the hero’s commitment
-        create drama for the audience by asking if our hero is capable of facing what’s ahead
-        may have previously been the hero’s MENTOR
We writers face conflicting CALLS:
1.    to experience life fully to find material for our work, and
2.    to cut ourselves off to create it.

We also must contend with the pull of our own ORDINARY WORLDS that try to distract us and/or keep us safe from taking risks, leading us to refuse the CALL.

In my current work in progress, I feel the CALL TO ADVENTURE from synchronous sources, while daily facing my own tendency to REFUSE THE CALL.

Meet Today’s Contributor—Sue LaNeve
Sue LaNeve is both an author and a ship's Captain who lives aboard a Kadey Krogen trawler, Freebird, currently docked in St. Petersburg, FL. She is a graduate of The Vermont College of Fine Arts where she earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and a membership in S3Q2, the Super Secret Society of Quirk and Quill. An extended sea journey encouraged her decision to self-publish her debut novel, SPANKY: A SOLDIER’S SON, which has earned decent reviews and a Bronze Medal from the Military Writers Society of America. You can and learn more about her at and read her blog posts at

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