Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Trickster - the last Archetype

     The Trickster character offers comic relief in a story. He may be a personality trait of the Hero or other characters. He presents us with mischief and a desire for change. He may cut a few egos down and bring Heroes and audiences down earth.
     Some people consider a good story “Makes‘em cry a lot; lets’em laugh a little.” Others think the opposite yields a good story. I think a balance of both creates the best reading.
     Sometimes the Trickster serves as the Hero - Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety Bird, Woody Woodpecker to name a few. The Hare in the Tortoise and the Hare shows that a Trickster Hero can turn the tables and actually fail.
     Native Americans present Tricksters such as Coyote and Raven. The clown Kachina of the Southwest teaches as well as gives great power and comic relief.
     Once in a while the Trickster changes others but not himself such as Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. At other times, the Trickster’s job makes us laugh at ourselves.
     Now that we have all the character archetypes in a story, authors should be able to add psychological depth and variety to keep from creating stereotypical characters.Remember, archetypes may not be individual characters put traits of various characters.
     Next we delve deeper into the Stages of the Journey and see how the archetypes fit in.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Achetypes con't

The next archetype is the Shadow. He represents the energy of the dark side, in other words, the villain, antagonist or enemy. He hopes to see the Hero fail. In some cases, the Shadow may be the shady part of ourselves that keeps us from succeeding, wrestles with bad habits, and old fears. The Shadow can also be the Shapeshifter in the form of vampires or werewolves.

The Shadow's dramatic side challenges the Hero. Some say a story is only as good as its villain, or Shadow.

The Shadow's mask hides any of the story characters. He may appear as Mentor while hiding the Shadow side of his personality. The Shadow may start out as a love interest in a romance novel who shifts to become the one who attempts to destroy the Hero. He can perform as a Trickster or Herald who lures the Hero into danger, or, a villain who experiences a change of heart like the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."

A touch of goodness humanizes the Shadow. Disney cartoons are good examples of humanized Shadows - Captain Hook in "Peter Pan," the demon in "Fantasia", the wicked queen in "Snow White,"
the glamorous fair in "The Sleeping Beauty," Cruelle in "One Hundred and One Dalmatians." Because of their qualities, they were made to seem even more sinister. The Shadow does not always perceive himself as a villain.

There is more to a Shadow but space prevents my expounding. Borrow the book from a library and read all these archetypes for yourself.

There is only one Archetype left, Trickster, in Book One of Vogler's "Writer's Journey," called Mapping the Journey. Then we'll cover Book Two: Stages of the Journey, where we go deeper into the 12 story elements we discussed in the beginning of this series. You might consider outlining the 12 elements leaving space for notes as well as the Archetypes, for easy reference.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Archetype, con't

The Shapeshifter is probably the hardest of the archetypes to explain. Remember that I am paraphrasing the book and there is a lot of information I'm leaving out. To better understand the explanations I've given thus far, you might want to read the book on your own. Vogler's The Writer's Journey can be found in most bookstores and online book retailers.

Highlights for Children offers a class on the process. Their classes are a bit pricey but well worth the money if you can afford it. They also offer scholarships for some classes, especially the Foundations Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. I attended the week long workshop in 2004 and thoroughly enjoyed it in addition to learning a lot and meeting wonderful people.

Back to Shapeshifter. These characters change mood, appearance, and are difficult for the Hero and audience to "pin down". They may take the Hero in a wrong direction and keep her guessing. Their loyalty and sincerity is in question. A good example is the mood changes a woman faces during pregnancy. So, the Shapeshifter projects the hidden opposite sides of ourselves.

Their dramatic function is to bring doubt and suspense into the story. In a romance novel, he causes the Hero to ask, "Is he faithful; will he betray me; does he truly love me; is he an ally or enemy." The Shapeshifter's change of appearance may be as small as style in hair or clothing. Heros must sometimes face Shapeshifters either male or female, who assume disguises and tell lies to confuse them.

(My italics button won't allow what I'm trying to do, so I'll put titles in quotations)

In "An Officer and a Gentleman" the Hero, Richard Gere, puts on airs and tells lies to attract a woman. In "Sister Act", Whoopi Goldberg disguises herself as a nun to keep from being killed. "Villians or their allies may wear the Shapeshifter mask to seduce or confuse the Hero." Look at the wicked witch in "Snow White" who becomes an old woman and tricks the Hero into eating an apple.

Shapeshifters are "found most often in male-female relationships, but may also be useful in other situations to portray characters whose appearance or behavior changes to meet the needs of the story."

In children's writing, I find it hard to discover the Shapeshifters. However, I'll keep reading in my search for this particular character. If you discover one, let us know. I am hoping all this becomes more clear further in the reading of "The Writer's Journey."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Archetypes con't

None of these archetypes have to be one person each. They may be a person who acts in several of these capacities. The Mentor might also be a Herald.

A Herald issues challenges and announces the coming of important changes. Think of the Heralds in medieval times. They knew the lineages and coats of arms. They identified people, relationships in battle, tournaments and, perhaps, weddings.

In a story, the Hero has succeeded up to this point. Suddenly, he faces a challenge that changes his way of life. His life will never be the same again. He has been called to an adventure, oftentimes by the guise of a Herald. It can be a dream, a person or a new idea. In Field of Dreams a voice tells the Hero "If you build it, they will come." He faced a change.

Our story must face a change also. The Herald gives the character motivation, a challenge and starts the real story. In Earthquake, earth tremors act as Herald. A stock market crash may hold the name of Herald. In High Noon, the Herald is a clerk with a telegraph message. A map and a telephone call herald change to a character in Romancing the Stone.

Heralds represent positive, negative or neutral people. Darth Vader causes the audience to realize something is not quite right.

A Herald may appear through a Mentor, Trickster, or Threshold Guardian character. The Mentor is usually a positive for the Hero. The Trickster and Threshold Guardian act as neutrals.

Usually the Herald appears in Act One although he may appear at any time in the story. However, he is a necessity in every story.

If your story is in progress, try to determine who plays the part of each archetype we've discussed thus far.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Threshold Guardian

A Threshold Guardian seldom represents the villain. Rather, they are obstacles to thwart the entrance to a New or Special World. They may be overcome, bypassed or turned into allies. Occasionally they are secret helpers who test the Hero's willingness and skill. He warns the villain of approaching danger in some cases.

Vogler uses the example of a fox resting at the entrance to a cave where a bear is sleeping. The bear tolerates the fox. The fox warns the bear of danger. In the same way, villains use doorkeepers, bouncers, bodyguards, sentries, gunslingers or mercenaries to protect and warn the villain the Hero approaches.

They have a psychological function. We may not recognize Guardians under the above names but they play the same roles. Their titles change to the obstacles we face in everyday life - bad weather, bad luck, prejudice, oppression or hostile people. They become the inner neuroses  we carry like emotional scars, vices, dependencies, and self-limitations - those things that keep us from growing.

They dramatically test whether we are up to challenges and changes. Each time the hero faces a plot point or black moment, he either passes or fails the test. The hero chooses how to solve each problem as he comes in contact with the Guardian. He may even "get into the skin of the opponent." Indians wore the skin of a buffalo to disguise themselves in order to get close enough for a kill. When Dorothy is held captive in the Witch's castle, her friends overcome soldiers, dress in their clothing and become the enemy for a short period in order the rescue her.

When in real life you confront an obstacle which causes you to change, your friends who offer advice (good or bad) become Guardians. They put you through the tests to see if you are up to the new challenge. The same goes for your stories. Someone puts the hero through the tests.

In Japan, demon statues often decorate entrances. One hand raises like a policeman to cause you to halt. If you look closer, the other hand invites you in. Authors need to look past appearances and into the reality of the entrance. Learning to deal with Threshold Guardians is one of the major tests of the Hero's Journey.

Next we discuss the Herald.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Archetypes con't

Mentor - Wise Old Man or Woman

The Mentor is one of the most entertaining sources in literature or film. In the Wizard of Oz, we find Glenda, the good witch. In Cinderella it is the Fairy Godmother; Merlin in King Arthur. The Mentor could be the best of Self or our conscience. He may be a hero to the main character, a parent, aunt, grandmother/grandfather or someone to whom the hero looks to for advice.

The Mentor can serve many functions - teacher, gift-giver, inventor, or, as I said before, conscience.
They motivate, plant information, and offer love. However, a dark mentor may mislead, misguide the audience as well as the hero. Sometimes the Mentor seems to stand in the way and the hero must overcome or outgrow the energy of her best teachers.

Other Mentors have fallen. Take Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own. He faces his own road to redemption while trying to Mentor his team. The audience roots for him to succeed on his own road to recover from his past.

Sometimes a Mentor continues into a sequel such as the Chief in Get Smart or the grandparents on the Waltons, who continually show up in episode after episode. Or multiple Mentors help the hero, like 007 in the Bond movies. He has three Mentors in the form of the spymaster "M", "Q" who is the weapons and gadget maker, and Miss Moneypenny.

Comic, shaman, and inner Mentors appear with a definite purpose in a story. Each or several mentors show up at different times. Not always is the Mentor introduced in Act I but may be needed later as someone who can show the ropes to the hero. Mentors provide motivation, inspiration, guidance, training, gifts for the journey, yet, do not solve the hero's problem.

I have something scheduled for every day this week which includes three days of driving into Denver. Bear with me if I miss the Thursday post and post it on Friday. Thanks for following. If you have comments, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vogler's Archetypes

Wrote this Wed. and forgot to post it on Thursday before I headed to Denver for two days. Sorry!

If an author knows the purpose or function of characters in a story, she can discover if the character is pulling her weight. The archetypes do not have to all be real persons. Some can be personality traits of one character. For instance, a Mentor is not necessarily a rigid character role but can be a function of one character. A character may have many masks he wears temporarily. The hero may even pick up the character traits of everyone she meets to make herself a whole person.

As Vogler does, we'll discuss each archetype one at a time but not as thoroughly as the book. The most common archetypes are:
Threshold Guardian

A Hero is male or female, the protagonist of the story. She is willing to sacrifice for others to gain her goal. Ego makes up the Hero and teaches her to become a complete person. In the process she faces internal guardians, monsters and helpers. She finds teachers, guides, demons, gods, mates, servants, scapegoats, masters, seducers, betrayers and allies. Even the villains, tricksters, lovers, friends and foes can be found within ourselves as Hero.

The Hero has dramatic purpose. A story expects the audience to identify with the Hero. Her desires are understood by the audience - "to be loved and understood, to succeed, survive, be free, get revenge, right wrongs or seek self-expression." To make the Hero interesting, she needs to be like each member of the audience in some way. She needs to grow, do something, sacrifice something, deal with death metaphorically, and have flaws. She can't always be perfect. The audience needs to see her make some dumb choices. She must be active rather than passive.

There are Group Heroes (those who get separated from the group but usually return),  Loner Heroes, (like Shane, John Wayne's character in  The Searchers, or the Lone Ranger) who are invited to return to the world of relationships or society, and Catalyst Heroes, those who transform others but change little themselves (like Eddie Murphy's character in Beverly Hills Cop).

This discussion barely touches the surface of a Hero. Take time to study the Heroes in your favorite stories and determine how they change, how they change others or if they return to the Ordinary World. Next we discuss the Mentor.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Writing Journey - Act 3

Now that the hero in Writer's Journey has Seized the Sword, she must head back to the Ordinary World. Her trials are not over. Let's look at the last three of the 12 elements to a successful story according to this book.

Element 10 - The Road Back
Although the hero has what she wanted, her trip back to the Ordinary World becomes harried because she must leave this special world of seeking her goal through more temptations, tests and dangers. Leaving this world in movies often brings about the best chase scenes. Take for instance, ET when he  and Elliott go on a moonlight bicycle ride.

Element 11 - Resurrection
The hero faces similar incidents of danger and complications as in the Ordeal. She must be cleansed of all the past before she can return to the Ordinary World. She is tested one last time to prove she learned the lessons of the Ordeal.

Element 12 - Return with the Elixir
The hero cannot return to the Ordinary World empty-handed. She must bring a treasure or lesson, the Elixir, back with her. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learned she is loved at home. In fact, she states in the movie, "There's no place like home."

Remember that the elements listed here are a framework, not to be necessarily followed precisely. Each story may change the order, leave out some elements or add to them without losing any of the power. In writing the story the elements should blend so that no one recognizes them. The elements fit well into modern stories as well. The mentor may not be a fairy, wizard, or shaman, but a teacher, parent, or any helping person instead.

"The Hero's Journey is infinitely flexible, capable of endless variation without sacrificing any of its magic, and will outlive us all." page 27.

Now that you have a map to a successful story, Thursday we'll discuss the characters who fill the story's pages - Archetypes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writer's Journey Second Act

I'll be visiting my twin grandsons tomorrow so I'm posting this early.

In act one we left off with Crossing the First Threshold, the fifth element of a good fiction story from The Writer's Journey. It is the first turning point that leads to a new world of problems for the hero. How the hero handles and faces the problems takes up Act 2, made up of four elements of the original 12 in the three-act premise of the book. 

Element 6: Tests, Allies and Enemies

The first turning point of Crossing the First Threshold leads to new challenges - tests. The hero makes both allies and enemies. She encounters the problems of the new world. In adult books, bars and saloons offer good settings but not in all books. For instance, The Wizard of Oz takes  Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road where she makes friends and then comes across enemies. She also faces many tests - snow and oiling of tin man, the lion and his fear, and rescuing the scarecrow.

Element 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

Next the hero comes to the inmost cave - a dangerous place unknown to the hero. She may pause at the gate to plan how to outwit the villain. She approaches but hesitates. She eventually enters and that becomes the next turning point - entering the cave and dealing with whatever is inside. The cave is a name for the hero's problem. Dorothy is kidnapped and placed in the Wicked Witch's castle.

Element 8: The Ordeal

The Ordeal is a "black moment" for the reader in which it seems there is no return. Suspense and tension add to the story of the hero's plight. When Dorothy's friends try to rescue her, matters get worse and it seems there is no way out. We can compare the ordeal to the old clique of "boy meets girl (Act I) and boy loses girl (Act 2)" The boy gets girl is the third act. The hero's fate seems to be established. Will she come out of it unscathed? Analogy goes like this. You get on a roller coaster ride. At the top of the hill, you drop into what feels like instant death only to recover and do it again on the next hill. We want the reader to feel this way in Act 2 when the hero faces the horrors of not accomplishing her goals.

Element 9: The Reward (Seizing the Sword)

If we stick to the analogy of the roller coaster, the reward comes at the end when we know we survived the ride. Sometimes the reward is knowledge and "reconciliation with hostile forces." Dorothy escapes from the Wicked Witch. She has the witch's broomstick and the Ruby slippers. But, she still has the problem of how does she get home? Will the evil forces return or is she in a safe place? Here ends Act 2.

We'll discuss the last three elements which conclude the story and end Act 3 on Monday afternoon. Later posts will delve deeper into each element.