Welcome back to the second part of the my Hero’s Journey rundown. As before, we’ll be using quotations from Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey”. :) This week, we’re going to cover the first very large section, wisely titled “The Call To Adventure”.
When we last left your hero, they were in their “Ordinary World”. Things are the way they have pretty much always been. Think of Harry Potter at the Dursley’s. He’s unhappy, they like him unhappy. Such is life.
But the whole purpose of a story is to take your hero--and thus your readers--on an adventure. Take them out of their regular existence and widen their horizons. That widening, in effect, will change how your hero will see the world and the way it works. And, inevitably, the hero will come home again and realized that the things that were once so big and daunting don’t have the power they once had. But, that’s me getting ahead of myself.
First, the hero must hear the call in the first place. This is very simple to do. Introduce your plot. Evil overtaking the universe? War going on overseas? There’s some hairy chick in a tower, begging for help? Those are all clarion calls. Something is happening somewhere and the hero hears about it. They don’t have to care yet, but they do have to hear about it.
So, you’d think that it would be a simple “Sure, I’ll come!” (they are heroes, after all!), but when’s the last time you met someone who threw themselves into drastic change without a drop of hesitation?
Yeah, not too often.
Most heroes are going to drag their heels just a wee bit. They’re not stupid, the have no reason to go flinging themselves into the unknown when the currently known is safe enough, thanks. This is the period referred to as the “Refusal Of The Call”.
A few things can happen here to jumpstart your hero whether they like it or not. The adventure is coming, and heroes do not get the luxury of saying no.
1) A hero can jump right in--sick and tired of their current existence, or (more commonly) facing death, they’ll take any other option. (Brendan Frasier in the Mummy.)
2) They will meet what is called a “Threshold Guardian”: "Heroes who overcome their fear & commit to the adventure may stll be tested by powerful figures who raise the banner of fear & doubt, questioning hero's worthiness to be in the game."
Few things will inspire a hero like a thrown down gauntlet. They have no desire to join the adventure, but damn if they’re going to be mocked for not joining the adventure. Examples of Threshold Guardians would be, perhaps, Robert Loggia’s role as Richard Gere’s father in “Officer & A Gentleman”, telling him that he can never be an officer.
Ultimately, a Threshold Guardian is simply whatever is the obstacle between you and your hero taking that first step into the adventure. It can be a person, a fear, a place or a thing. Often, the first guardian is not the strongest your hero will encounter--you know, they gotta practice on something.
3) The Secret Door can happen. Often times, heroes get themselves into a mess of trouble based purely on their own curiosity. "Heroes inevitably violate limits set by Mentors or Threshold Guardians, due to what we...call the Law Of The Secret Door." ie: Belle & West Wing, Pandora & box..."...the powerful drive to know all the hidden things, all the secrets."
Any of these three can be the way to push your hero toward their adventure, usually despite their better judgement. Thankfully, there are guides to the adventure. Someone who knows what they’re doing a little bit better than our newbie heroes. These are called “Mentors” and the next section of the Call is “Meeting With The Mentor”.
Once your hero begins listening to the advice of the more knowledgeable soul, they begin accepting that the adventure is part of their destiny. Expressing this turn, this overcoming of their reluctance, can be done by learning a few things from their mentors--even accepting gifts (Obi Wan Kenobi handing Luke his father’s lightsaber, anyone?)--that can bring some excitement to the call. Basically, your hero wants to know what they’re going to get out of it and a Mentor is usually there to tell them.
Be careful, though, when creating your mentor. Just about everyone pictures the same old guy in white hair with a beard, using his trusty walking stick as he staggers his way across the story, berating his young, useless apprentice. But mentors can come in all shapes and sizes. Peter Pan was a mentor, when showing Wendy how to fly and how to enjoy Neverland. And, mentors are people too, with their own agendas. A mentor can just as easily be the father your hero never had...or the villain in disguise. Ask yourself what kind of mentor your hero has and how have you turned the archtype on it’s head.
Now, once your hero has begun to accept his fate to start the adventure, has taken a step towards it and learned a few things about how to go about it, they must “Cross The First Threshold” and commit to the change.
But, young paduwan, we’ll cover that next week!