Once upon a time, Keven Newsome wrote a post about the Hero’s Journey. He revisited the concept in this post where he applied it to various movies, but the post I remember must have been pre-NAF ’cause I can’t find it (anytime you want to recycle that one, Iguana, you’ve got my vote).
Basic concept: the hero changes during the story, starting out with everything against him, including himself, and ultimately conquering all. This post is about one key to the Hero’s Journey: reluctance.
Not all books have to be about reluctant heroes. Cyrus Solberg of Mitchell Bonds’ Hero, Second Class isn’t reluctant. He’s wanted to be a Hero all his life. Kat Heckenbach’s Finding Angel is about a girl anxious to find and meet her destiny. The feisty Alara of Kristen Stieffel’s A Gift with Which to Serve (which may or may not have another title at this point) actively searches for God’s will in her life.
I’ve read stories with protagonists who don’t know themselves. The book is a journey of self-discovery. In Diane Graham’s I Am Ocilla, Ocilla starts with no memory, and we learn about her as she learns about herself. She becomes a bit more reluctant as the story progresses. Can’t say I blame her.
Then we have characters who think they know who they are. The Iguana mentions Neo from The Matrix. I would add Alice from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (I can’t think of a literary example at the moment. Anyone? Anyone?) The story becomes a question of who is right, the character or the quest?
In the two books I’ve completed, at least one character actually declares, “This is who I am!” in response to a situation where expectations are different from her perceived ability. My protagonists are dragged kicking and screaming, often literally, into their destinies.
It’s weird. I hadn’t realized I’d done it until this course of posts made me examine my stories and myself in them. Who am I trying to convince, I wonder? Are my characters telling the world I don’t want to change who I am? That I defy my destiny, i.e., God’s plan for my life?
Maybe. In my more honest moments, I admit my personal story has been one of resisting God’s apparent plan. Telling Him “no” more often than “yes.” Refusing to practice my gifts. Taking the easy wrong instead of the hard right. Sometimes I wonder why my mom didn’t smother me in my sleep and try again. She couldn’t have gotten a more stubborn daughter.
As I write Past Ties, I’m waiting for that one character to stand up and announce defiance. No one has done it yet, and it’s throwing me off. Does this mean I’ve grown? Is my personal quest toward publication transforming me into a less reluctant hero?
I doubt it. Doesn’t sound like me at all.
Your turn to play.
What kind of hero do you prefer? Do you see yourself in your protagonist? How? Should you have been smothered in your sleep? Just kidding with that one.