Saturday, October 22, 2005

Writing the hero's journey: Towards a plot plan for NaNoWriMo

For those of us undertaking the adventure of writing a complete novel in 30 days, I am certain that prior planning will make the difference between a reasonable chance of success and no chance at all. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is rapidly approaching, and we've only got a little time left to prepare our Great American Novel.

I've sought out a little help from some writing books, one of the most helpful of which is The Writer's Journey. In it, Christopher Vogler has given us a concise distillation of the Hero's Journey from which to understand and develop our own unique plot lines. I plan on shamelessly using the 12 steps of the Hero's Journey to plot my novel. Since I've never written a complete novel before, the approach seems like an excellent exercise in thinking through all the things that need to happen structurally in a story and in filling the roles for the major players every story has. Besides, if I ever actually finish this project, I'll have a little experience in the basics from which to explore new ways of doing things, should I decide to go forward writing more novels. But that's getting ahead of myself.

According to Vogler, here are the 12 steps of the Hero's Journey:

1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting With the Mentor
5. Crossing the First Threshold
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
7. Approach
8. Supreme Ordeal
9. Reward
10. The Road Back
11. Resurrection
12. Return With the Elixir

For a little description about each of these stages in the journey, check out this site.

Now, to round out the cast of character archetypes/roles that can be found populating the narrative of the Hero's Journey:

1. Hero
2. Mentor
3. Threshold Guardian
4. Herald
5. Shapeshifter
6. Shadow
7. Trickster

For a brief, if psychoanalytical, overview of these archetypes, check out this site.

The next step is to go through with a basic premise (sometimes called the 3-sentence plot summary or the back cover copy) and then flesh it out by describing the stages and archetypes and how they'll fit together in the story. Stay tuned...


Gunslinger said...

So your book then, will be about a young man who is tired of working on his family farm, but his uncle needs him to help, and only after his family is killed by the galaxy wide nemesis, that he realizes that he has to get involved, then joins the fight thereby leading the entire resistance to victory with one lucky shot?

Sounds good. You might consider a movie deal. perhaps Lucas would be interested.

Alien Shaman said...

I am looking forward to your 3 sentences summary. There is some software for the Mac, and PC I assume, which is supposed to help writers out. It is a tab-word processor. That way you can have tabs to keep outlines, character info, maps - all in one interface. It is also very useful for a GM running a campaing. I will try and find the program and send it your way.

James Wood said...

When I started reading Alien's comment about the summary and software I thought he was going to say there is software to write your summary for you.

12 steps - check.

Automatic summary - check.

1000 monkies typing on 1000 keyboards 24 hours a day -- wait 'til November :)

Alien Shaman said...

Here we go...

One tool for XP that could be useful...

Alien Shaman said...

And here for Mac...

Dwayne Hilty said...

Mmmmm, useful stuff for writing a novel....I have this cool idea for a story...maybe I'll use these 12 stages but reverse them and mix and Dances with Wolves.

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