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The Hero's Progression

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Dr Steve Brule, Feb 18, 2017.

  1. Dr Steve Brule

    Dr Steve Brule Dreamer

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    In many books and films I see a similar theme or idea. Usually the main hero is not a hero/warrior/fighter and that through circumstance they become a hero. I just watched a Star Wars marathon and would like to use Luke as an example. He was a simple farmer, nothing seemingly spectacular about him. He loses his family, discovers a bigger world outside the one he knows, sets out to learn the force and become a jedi knight. I think the story would have been much different had it started with Luke already trained in the ways of the jedi. But, would it have necessarily been bad?

    I know it has become a cliche of sorts to have the "main hero is a farmer/peasant/whathaveyou, his family is killed, joins X group (usually a rebellion of some kind) and then ends up becoming extraordinary." (I'm thinking of Eragon here) I find a lot of stories use this set up and the hero is usually trained by a mentor type character.

    Do your heroes follow this path or were they already powerful to begin with? If you don't use this approach, how did you go about portraying your protagonist?
     
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    There are many different story archetypes/patterns. Luke's is what's call the Hero's Journey story . You can google up what that is.

    Sorry to be a bit vague here, but my protagonists start where they're meant to start and the go where they're meant to go depending on the story I'm trying to tell. Sometimes it's strong to weak. Other times it's weak to strong, and others still they remain weak or strong through out the story. And then there's everything in between.
     
  3. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    The farmer lead is just to get the story going. I quietly bait and switch him with the real main character. The farmer still gets a story that plays out like the traditional hero's progression, with his own final boss, but it's relegated to a B plot.
     
  4. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    No. It wouldn't have been bad. It would have been absolutely horrible.
    Why? Because the entire point of the story is the Hero's Journey. (Literally. Lucas sat down with a copy of Campbell's book and wrote a story based on the main beats of the Journey.) More importantly, the only way to make it relatable is to give us the "Every Man" character- the one we could picture ourselves as. Only after you have established that can you start their journey.


    As for the rest of your post: First, read Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Your comment about the mentor is one of the steps- and it is a story as old as civilization.
    Some of my characters start out powerful, but the Hero's Journey still gets used. Not even deliberately. It's just the way it has to be.
     
  5. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Using the hero's journey does not mean you necessarily hit every point on the cycle. And it's generally a bad idea to write explicitly to the cycle. The character may never meet a mentor, or may never refuse the call. Some parts are not hit in order and others may not happen at all.
     
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  6. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    And the vast majority of those stories that don't hit the points on the cycle? They gain no popularity because they fail to connect with the audience. I'm not saying write explicitly to the cycle. But I am saying you need to compare your finished story (first draft or outline) and see if it hits the points of the Journey.
     
  7. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    The hero's journey is descriptive. It was never prescriptive. It is a vague amalgamation of the hero's progression for the purposes of critical discussion. It isn't a how to write guide.
     
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  8. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    The Hero's Journey wasn't prescriptive. You're correct. But it is much more than simply descriptive. If it was simply descriptive, you wouldn't find the precise same beats going back thousands of years through story telling.
    The Hero's Journey is the story humanity wants to hear, obviously. It's the reason Star Wars (the original) has made all the money in the world. Because it is the story we can relate to and get invested in.
     
  9. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Joseph Campbell analyzed many stories and outlined vague commonalities that fit most of them. That is the definition of descriptive.

    The prequels follow the hero's journey even closer than the originals, right down to the virgin birth. And that sucked. The hero's journey is supposed to unfold from the story. Each character has a different hero's journey that does not always follow the same progression. Being so reductive that saying every hero's path should be written against a checklist, is misguided.
     
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  10. Vaporo

    Vaporo Sage

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    (Please don't turn this into that other thread that just got locked! It only just started.)

    I think that I'm going to agree with AnnoyingKid here. The hero's journey is ultimately just a descriptor. A very good descriptor, but ultimately just a descriptor. It's an emergent property of a well-written story, and not every good story necessarily follows it perfectly.

    Think about the first Harry Potter book. The traditional hero's journey would have the Harry refuse the initial invitation to Hogwarts, or refuse to find our who's trying to steal the Sorcerer's Stone, but he accepts both adventures with open arms. In fact, I don't remember that at any point during the first book where Harry refuses to face new adventures. He's always the one trying to find the adventure while everyone else ignores the problems at hand. It doesn't follow the ideal hero's journey, yet the book was a massive success.
     
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  11. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    You can't find the precise same beats going back thousands of years. You have to fudge it and ignore tons of context.

    You can find precisely the same beats in countless stories since Campbell wrote his stupid book though.
     
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  12. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    Mine start powerful and stay powerful lol, easier to start off with cool action and justify them fighting strong enemies from early on. How powerful exactly varies though.
     
  13. It kind of depends on the story. Fir example, within one story I have three MCs. One mc is an accomplished gun slinging magic soldier. She's BAMF who don't take no crap from nobody. The other two are a nooby legislator and a world famous attorney of magical law. Those two are utter incompetents in terms of combat. One is an utter incompetent with the rules of legislative procedure and wrangling. But they each progress and are faced with challenges well beyond their ken.

    I have another story where the MC is angel of death sent to be a temporary mortal to root out a plot to kill and replace Death. He's fully competent in killing everyone and everything. But his challenge is internal, to control himself from violating certain rules. He's tempted to because the conspirators are trying to kill his own son. So his journey is markedly different than Luke's in the sense of power. But even still, the challenges he faces are hard for him and force him to grow.

    So, my heroes start where they need to start and grow as they need to.

    As to the broader debate. There are more story archetypes than the hero's journey. There are sports stories where a rag tag group of disparate characters come together and overcome challenges. This would be like the movie Remember the Titans or Oceans 11. Then there are the rags to riches stories like Cinderella or Slum Dog Millionaire. And a host of other archetypes. None of these are prescriptive. A great author can use any basic archetype and flavor them accordingly by either subtraction or by taking elements of other archetypes and putting them in their main story. The difference is that if a chef and s cook. The best authors are chefs, able to mix and match pieces of archetypes to change around basic stories. A cook follows the archetypes perfectly. The former can be great. The latter guarantees a bare minimum of story competence.
     
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  14. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    Really? Because you can find them in Homer. In Shakespeare. In Tolkien. In most mythologies.
    The precise same beats. Sure. There's context that makes every story different. But when you strip it down to the skeleton that has no names? Exactly the same beats.
     
  15. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    So no growth?
     
  16. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    1) How do you define greatness? Sales? How they're remembered? Literacy?
    2) I have to disagree with the premise. A chef follows the recipe. They don't have to look it up, because they've internalized it. But they follow it. They may make some alterations. But they still follow the recipe. If you took a card with the basic recipe and compared it to the creation of a brilliant chef? You'd find the same ingredients you were expecting. Possibly a few more. Possibly created differently. But you'd find the ingredients.
    The same goes true for a story teller. If you hold up the "recipe" to the finished product, you're going to find the ingredients you expect. Created differently? Absolutely. Does it have some other stuff? Certainly. But you'll find the stuff you're looking for.
    After all, there are only about a dozen stories in the world. Everything else is a revision of those.
     
  17. I must have missed the clear indicators of the hero's journey in A Midsummer's Night Dream and The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth. None of those are hero journeys.
     
  18. Which is exactly what I said. Chefs and the best storytellers are able to mix and match story elements to change the formula into something recognizable and yet different and surprising.
     
  19. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    Except they don't do that. A Chef doesn't mix a Pasta Foix Gras with Chicken Teriyaki. They make the thing, using the recipe. Because that's what people come to them for.

    I also notice you've completely ignored my question regarding what makes a "great" writer. Sorry, but that's the most important question I can raise at the moment. You say a "great" writer does X. So what is a great writer? What defines a great writer?
     
  20. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    Depends on the character, they might grow into a better leader, learn to open up more to other people or become more mature etc, they might even get more skilled/powerful but they are already impressive at the start.
     
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