February 29, 2012

back to basics: hero's journey, stage two

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, I introduce to you the Call to Adventure, stage two of the mythic structure. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

As I said in my last post, the Ordinary World of the story is static and well, ordinary. But it is also unstable. The need for change and growth is due, and the hero only needs a small something to get him diving headfirst into an adventure. That something is the Call to Adventure.

Other terms for the Call to Adventure are inciting incident, initiating incident, catalyst, or trigger. It’s ultimately the plot device that gets the story rolling once the main character has been introduced.

The Call to Adventure may come in the form of a message or messenger. The character embodiment of the Call is the Herald archetype (which I will talk about in more detail in a later subseries of Back to Basics). Often, the introduction of this character triggers the arrival of the Call. The Herald serves to get the story rolling by presenting the hero with an invitation or challenge to face the unknown. Sometimes, the Call isn’t a physical entity. It may be the Hero’s own restlessness, the fact that they’re fed up with the life they’re leading, so they make a conscious decision to act, to change their lives themselves. The Call could be a dream or a vision. A string of accidents or coincidents may act as a message to the hero. Temptation can also act as the Call—the allure of treasure, fame, glory, love, and exploration can be enough to tempt the hero into action.

For example, in my novel The Clockwork Giant, Petra, fed up with her life as a shop girl, makes an effort to change that life herself. Ultimately, she fails, but we see her restlessness, her desire to change, so when the Call to Adventure comes in the form of Emmerich Goss, we’re ready for her to take the leap and help him. We know that this is her one chance to change the life she’s been living.

In the newest Star Trek film, starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, the Call to Adventure comes when Christopher Pike shows up at the middle-of-nowhere bar and tells Kirk the location of the shuttle for the new Star Fleet recruits, daring him to enlist. In the movie Tangled, we see that Rapunzel is looking for adventure, wanting to see the floating lights that appear on her birthday every year, but it takes the arrival of Flynn Rider for her to actually commit.
The Call to Adventure can often be unsettling and disorienting to the hero, requiring immediate action. Oftentimes, the hero is reluctant or doesn’t see the necessity in pursuing the adventure. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke is reluctant to save Princess Leia, even with Obi Wan Kenobi’s insistence that he take up the ways of the force. It takes seeing his aunt and uncle burned to a crisp and his home destroyed to get him to finally accept the Call to Adventure—R2D2’s holographic message. When at last everything is taken from the hero, he has no choice but to accept the Call. He has run out of options. 

The Call to Adventure can be anything from a letter or telephone call, to the destruction of the hero’s home, or the arrival of a new alluring character. The hero may be reluctant and refuse the Call for a time, but in the end, they accept the many Calls asking them to change and take on the adventure. The placement is usually near the beginning of the story, and sometimes it may be subtle, appearing to be nonexistent. Just as every stage in the Hero’s Journey, the Call to Adventure is not a necessity, and it can be altered or removed as the writer sees fit.

If you have any questions about the Hero’s Journey, don’t hesitate to ask. I know a lot more about it than I’ve said here, and I would be happy to clear anything up, if you need me to. This is a rather general overview, since I don’t want you guys to have to read insanely long posts, but if you would like a more in depth analysis as it pertains to writing, check out The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. If you are just interested in the Hero’s Journey in itself, check out A Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

1 comment:

  1. The examples mentioned here are very helpful since I've either read or seen them for myself and can understand this Call to Adventure much better. It gives me something to work with regarding a story idea I have in mind. Thank you.