Daily Writing Tip 33 of 100, Learn About the Hero’s Journey

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Learn About the Hero’s Journey

Source – The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back.

Anyone that creates anything should read and study Joseph Campbell and the ideas of the universal myth and hero’s journey. Just be careful about it.

My personal opinion is that the use of the Hero’s Journey Monomyth as the only legitimate scaffold on which to build a plot is oversimplified and overused. If I have to see or read one more story where the protagonist has to (or appear to) “die” at the climax of the story only to be reborn as a great hero… well, I’m sure I will see it more than one more time. Everything – especially big budget films and young adult novels has to follow this same script or it won’t get made.

I think sometime I will work at scouring my dreams and fears and come up with my own monomyth. Maybe everybody should do that.

Why I Love to Slaughter my Characters

Man is born crying. When he cries enough, he dies.
—Ran
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As I’ve said before, I can outline too many of my short stories with three cards-

1. Introduce Compelling Character – interesting and fully rounded human that, despite some quirky faults and failings, the reader likes and can identify with.

2. Something bad happens – the protagonist is presented with something that does not go as planned and puts them in some distress – a problem to solve.

3. Protagonist dies. Nothing works, doom descends and the main character dies an ignominious, painful death.

They aren’t all like this, but this is what I like to shoot for. It’s just that sometimes my characters refuse to do what I tell them to and, despite my best efforts, they get lucky, scrape by with the skin of their teeth, and survive.

Everyone tells me I’m a terrible person because I take so much joy in butchering my heroes and heroines, especially since they are sometimes such nice people. Some ask me why I do that. I do it because I like it. I do it because I can. I do it because it doesn’t hurt anybody.

These are fictional characters. They are not real. Everything is a lie. Writing this stuff is a lot of hard work, time that I should be spending in useful money-making activities – so I want a payoff. Since I can do anything, doesn’t it make sense to do what I can’t ever do in real life? Death! Off with their heads!

The idea is to kick it up a notch, isn’t it? What possible reason is there not to kick it up as far as it will go. Turn those amplifier knobs to eleven.

Yell

Yell

It’s the same thing if you are reading. It takes time to turn those pages; time you should be using to interact with real human beings. So if you are choosing to hang out with an imaginary shade instead of a flesh-and-blood person you are going to want to make the best of the situation. So what is the one advantage of befriending fiction, a pack of ghostly lies, over some warm living example of God’s creatures?

You can kill them and nobody gives a shit. Plenty more where they came from. Close those book covers or shut off that e-reader and the pain and mourning is all gone. You can wipe a tear and go make a sandwich-nobody knows any better.

So let’s raise a glass to fictional death. Give a big hearty laugh at the disaster yarn. Let the blood spill and the darkness descend, as long as it is behind the protective screen of those twenty-six letters with the added armor of a few punctuation marks.

There’s too much out here, so lets keep it in there. As much as we can.