On Writing: The Mythic Journey and Answering the Call to Adventure

I have reached the point in my work-in-progress where the hero Chip has chosen not to enter the place of safety, preferring freedom to security, and he won’t be succumbing to the lure of safety until the third time it is offered. (Three is a very mythical number if mythicism can be said to have degrees.) Now that Chip is mostly alone in the world, however, I’m not quite certain what to do with him. For him to become willing to give up his freedom, he has to undergo many ordeals, and the dangers need to escalate. I know I can create these situations, but they should have an underlying feeling of cohesiveness, otherwise they will appear as a series of unrelated incidents that go nowhere. After my last blog post and the realization that my work-in-progress is starting to follow the mythic journey template, I thought I’d check the template to see if it offers a solution.

The mythic journey begins in the ordinary world, which is the way my work-in-progress begins.

The second stage in the format is the call to adventure. I suppose the ending of the world qualifies; you can’t find anything more unsettling and disturbing than that. The choice to enter the place of safety is another call to adventure, for Chip doesn’t know what will await him, but it’s also the antithesis of the call to adventure in that he is being called to safety not danger.

The third stage is the refusal of the call. The refusal is supposed to show the hero’s fear, his need to be cajoled, the riskiness of the adventure. But if the call isn’t dangerous, does Chip’s refusal to enter the safety zone qualify for the third step? He is confronting the great unknown, so perhaps his choosing freedom and danger isn’t as noble as I think it is. Perhaps he is choosing the known over the unknown. Either way, he prefers to stay where he is.

Traditionally, the hero cannot achieve his or her full potential without accepting the call and the risks that come with it. Choosing to accept the call does not guarantee the hero’s success, for the road is long and treacherous. But for Chip, refusing the call is the long and treacherous time. Still, in the mythic world, opposites often lead in the same direction, so I will presume the lessons learned are the same.

Many influences come into play to get the hero to answer the call, such as a change in circumstance and offenses against the natural order of things. These Chip will have, and they will help him redefine his objectives. Readers also like to see the hero’s reluctance overcome, and the stiffer the reluctance, the more they enjoy seeing it worn down. Perhaps that’s my answer. Maybe I need to have readers hoping Chip will opt for safety, make them an accomplice in his choice so they will have a stake during the other nine stages of the journey. To do this, I will need a character that stands in for the reader, which means Chip can’t go it alone.

This brings us to the next stage of the mythic journey: the meeting with the mentor. A mentor helps prepare the hero for the coming adventure, giving him advice and gifts. A mentor would certainly give this part the cohesiveness it lacks, and it would also give life to what would otherwise be simply a string of ordeals.

So there it is, the solution to my problem: a mentor.

A nice irony: in my mythic journey as a writer, I always hoped to find a mentor, one who would help me overcome the problems I encounter. Who would have thought I’d find this mentor in my own blog?

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