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.

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