The Hero’s Journey is a traditional storytelling pattern that has been used countless times. The purpose of this blog isn’t to further discuss the intricacies of the devices used but to focus those characters and mechanisms in a useful way for my readers. I thought it might be fun for those that have supported and encouraged me to understand some of the details behind Kristian’s tale. This won’t be a cliff’s note version of the book for a humanities class but may give you some hints into what went through my mind while writing the book.
Within The Hero’s Journey, there are pivotal archetypes that help define the story and move the plot along. They include: the hero, herald, wise man, shapeshifter, trickster, and the villain. Most fiction books include elements of the “journey”. I think the more poorly constructed ones bore readers with their over used and clichéd, genre specific formulas for characters. For example, the orphan that turns out to be the only person destined to wield a magic weapon or the sudden, shocking revelation that the hero is related to the villain, are two over used patterns within Fantasy Fiction novels. By design, I tried to develop a story that did not follow the norm. It’s harder than you might think. Below, I describe some of the main characters within The Hero’s Journey.
The hero is the character that has the most important change to make throughout the story. There can be more than one hero based on the scale of the story and the significance of the challenges they face. The quest that must be accomplished by the hero can be either physical or emotional, or both. To me, the hero has to be a flawed person – someone readers can accept as human but not necessarily have a lot of confidence in. This type of hero has to prove to the other archetypes that he is worthy of their trust, as well as, prove to readers that he is not a god or superhero that will automatically survive and complete the quest.
The herald is the one that challenges the hero to take up the quest. This person realizes that there is a conflict that must be resolved and gives the hero the information that convinces him to take action. The herald may also be a hero but is normally not the main character (though I’ve seen some stories where the hero becomes self-aware of his dilemma through internal struggle – his inner self then becomes the herald).
The wise man is often seen as the “all seeing omnipresent figure” that guides the hero along the path, facilitates learning, and discovery and grants the hero boons to complete his quest. In religious tales, characters take on the traits of saints, prophets, or even God. I often think of Asalon, from C.S. Lewis’ writings as a “wise man” that helps the four young children determine their path – he helps them but not so much that victory is certain.
The shapeshifter is a unique character that is used to develop twists within a plot – to create uncertainty. This character is often seen as amoral, often questioning the actions of both the villain AND the hero. Though shapeshifting can be a physical trait for this character, I think the term refers more to their moral ambiguity than to what they look like.
The trickster or “fool” is used for comedic relief after tense sequences. He is also used to bring levity to otherwise dismal tales. When the outcome looks utterly bleak, the fool reminds us that it is just a tale and that there is (hopefully) still a chance to defeat evil and win the day.
And finally, the Villain. The villain is the hero’s antagonist and does not necessarily have to be evil. The villain can be a rival, hated enemy, or even a sibling. The character and true nature of the villain helps set the overall tone of the book and forces the hero to overcome challenges, take a step back and look at himself when he stumbles, and focus all of his efforts toward destroying that which opposes good.
I’ve loosely based my story development upon the Hero’s Journey premise. I say “loosely” because the fantasy setting is used more as a vehicle to focus on character issues involving duty, sacrifice, love, and honor than to describe a fantastic new world, races, or a quest. Like the quote at the beginning of my first novel states, “Stories of Fantasy are nothing more then the retelling of our own triumphs and sad, sad tragedies”, this book also gives readers my views on our own society’s dilemmas over the last decade.
I am offering a challenge for my readers to identify those characters within my book, Prince Kristian’s Honor, that best fit the descriptions mentioned above. The person that responds through the ‘contact the author’ page with the best response no later than May 31st, 2013 will receive a prize. Entries will be judged based on the content of their argument; that means there really is no absolute answer. How well you make your case will determine who the winner is.
The winner will be contacted via email on June 15th, 2013.
Thanks so much to all of my supporters for sharing my excitement and I hope you enjoy the stories.