fiction writing

What’s Your Hero’s Journey?

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Types of Heroes

(Adapted from Chris Vogler, 1999, pp. 41–44)

What kind of hero are you writing?

Willing, active, gung-ho heroes: (Tarzan, King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Wonder-woman)

  • committed to the adventure
  • without doubts
  • always bravely going ahead
  • self-motivated

Unwilling heroes: (Frodo Baggins, Spiderman, Han Solo)

  • full of doubts
  • hesitant
  • passive
  • needing to be motivated or pushed into the adventure by an outside force
  • usually change at some point and become committed to the adventure

Anti-heroes: (Billy the Kid, Jack Sparo, “Bride” from Kill Bill)

  • specialised kind of hero
  • may be outlaws or villains from the point of view of society
  • audience is in sympathy with them
  • they may win in the end over society’s corruption
  • rebels

Tragic heroes: (Darth Vader, Brutus)

  • flawed heroes
  • never overcome their inner demons
  • brought down and destroyed by inner demons
  • may be charming
  • their flaw wins in the end

Group-oriented heroes: (Nemo, Simba)

  • are a part of society at the beginning
  • journey takes them to unknown land far from home
  • separate from group – have lone adventure in the wilderness away from the group

which they eventually rejoin

Loner heroes: (Indiana Jones, Incredible Hulk)

  • story begins with hero apart from society
  • natural habitat is the wilderness
  • natural state is solitude
  • journey is one of re-entry into the group, an adventure within the group, then a return to

isolation

Catalyst heroes: (Teacher from Dead Poets Society, any mentor)

  • central figures who act heroically
  • don’t change much themselves
  • main function is to bring about change in others

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Creating Characters Who Dance on Fire

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Often when contemplating the creation of fictional characters – what makes them do what they do, or what makes them who they truly are – I’ll watch movies or read books about damaged people, because (as we all (writers) should know) flawless characters are boring and no human makes it very far in life unblemished.

Today I watched the first movie that received high tributes for one of my favorite actors, Tom Hardy who can play anything because of the depths he is willing to go into the human psyche. Anyway, the movie is Stuart: A Life Backwards. The synopsis: A writer takes a backwards look at the life of his unlikely friend Stuart, a homeless alcoholic who experienced a traumatic event in his childhood.

Tom Hardy

I laughed, I cried and I came out of the movie with even more (if possible) admiration for my favorite actor. This movie was based on a true story. And even though it’s impossible to put mere words to the human experience that rises above verse, we as writers can aspire to hold a mirror up to our characters and reflect what we see in the world – and if we delve into our writerly craft – what they might see in the world.  This character Stuart was charismatic and abhorrent at the same time – abhorrent because it can be difficult to look at the things we find disturbing; homelessness, disease, drug addiction, violence and fear. Tom Hardy danced like a skilled ballerina around each of these issues of the human condition. His (character’s) loud abrasive communications with the world were a beautiful soul-sick opera.

My head is spinning with ideas on how to write more compelling characters, characters who can dance on fire and whose hearts sing to the universe for mercy.

Oh, and if you haven’t been watching the new Tom Hardy TV series titled, Taboo (2017) you’re really missing out on some GREAT characters. Well, I’m off to create.

Queen of the Desert

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I just had to share this fabulous woman…In researching for the background of a (secondary) character in my WIP I stumbled onto Gertrude Bell and was gob smacked by this woman’s hootspa. She was described as an ‘outsider’, the ‘Queen of the Desert’ and ‘the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day’. How inspirational! She was just what I was looking for. As always, it’s important to write female heroines and depict women (girls) as capable of

Bell is pictured centre at the Cairo Conference in 1921 with friend and colleague TE Lawrence, second right, and then Secretary of the Colonies Winston Churchill, where the future of the Middle East was discussed in the wake of the First World War (dailymail.com)

doing ANYTHING (and more) than their male counterparts. Thank you Wonder Woman, Senator Kamala Harris and my new favorite hero, Gertrude Bell!                                                                                                                               My protagonist grew up with a mother (1920s-30s) who traveled to Egypt and with her husband explored antiquities, pyramids and cultures of days gone by. My protagonist was a young girl when she traveled with them giving her a fascinating childhood. But then their idyllic lives were cut short when they were thrown into a concentration camp in 1939, as you can imagine. So in writing her brave mother I sought other women of that time period who traveled and explored along with their male colleagues. Why? Because the mother is the primary influence, and ultimate wound to my protagonist.

Bell (a perfect character role model) was born in County Durham in 1868, then went on to study history at Oxford. She met TE Lawrence 1909 at a dig at the ancient city of Carchemish, which would now be on the Syrian-Turkish border. Their first meeting was icy due to Victorian ‘traditions of snootiness, sexism and arrogance’ as well as Lawrence feeling ‘intimidated’ by meeting a woman who was ‘his intellectual equal’ and ‘spoke Arabic better than him’. But they became good friends. A couple years later Bell was recruited by British Intelligence during the First World War to help guide soldiers through the deserts, before being made Oriental Secretary in 1917. Even after the war she stayed on with the British Government as a diplomat helping to draw up Iraq’s borders and establish the state, and served as mediator between the Arab government in Iraq and the British officials supervising it.

Bell was far bigger than life and certainly the material of a great fiction heroin. Grateful for her journey, and grateful to have found her as my inspiration. Just had to share this remarkable woman.

You can read more about this fascinating woman here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4428004/Incredible-life-British-adventurer-Gertrude-Bell.html

In 2015 Nicole Kidman starred in a movie about her life, Queen of The Desert http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1837636/

A 2017 documentary about her life appropriately titled, Letters From Bagdad was released this year. Take a peek here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6086614/videoplayer/vi3633887513?ref_=tt_ov_vi

I haven’t seen either of these films but plan to.

Why Authors Should Be Virtual Vision Boarding

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The research aspect of writing historical fiction is a full-time job and often disregarded once the book is done. Add to that reader’s expectations have elevated, so authors are obliged to meet their escalating anticipations with additional information/entertainment. For example, with the sensitive subject matter of the holocaust in my second novel, keeping research organized and verifying facts is vital. For me that’s made easier by using virtual vision boarding on Pinterest to create story-boards, story images, park my research, and SO much more. That way I have the images and links to critical research at my fingertips for referencing later in blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and so on, utilizing my research by turning it into marketing gold. If you’re just beginning your first novel or starting your fifth novel, virtual vision boarding is a great author’s tool – for research, writing and marketing – that’s never too early or too late to utilize.

I’ll be sharing this information and more at Edmonds Community College in July. Click here to sign up for the workshop.