Ad Astra 2015, day 3: The hero’s journey and the story promise


I lied. Last week I’d said that I’d be reporting on fairy tales this week. Turns out that my notes from that panel were less than a page (!) I was enjoying rather than making notes, again (bad Mellie). So I’m fast-forwarding to the last session I attended at Ad Astra this year.

Panellists: Catherine Fitzsimmons, Cathy Hird, Kelley Armstrong, Nina Munteanu

the hero's journey panel

KA: The first stop on the hero’s journey is the ordinary world. Science fiction and fantasy authors can struggle with this because of the urge to info-dump. We want to share all the details of our intricate world building. You can’t jump straight to the call to adventure, though. You have to set the stage.

NM: The call to adventure is often refused and may require the appearance of a mentor figure.

CH: Refusal is an interesting moment, though. It’s great conflict.

NM: Threshold guardians are another great source of conflict. In most cases, your hero will need help to defeat or circumvent them. Mentors or allies. The descent and return must be accomplished by your hero alone, however. Your hero must transform.

KA: That’s the return with the elixir. Sometimes, though, the hero does not refuse. Sometimes, it’s awesome. I’m in! Hella yeah! And sometimes the threshold guardian just doesn’t want the hero to get hurt. It’s still conflict. It’s just not so overt.

NM: It’s the belief in the quest that carries the hero over the threshold. The mentor believes in the hero. The threshold guardians do not.

CH: In Tanya Huff’s The Enchantment Emporium, the quest is hidden.

NM: The story promise requires the hero to progress on the journey to its ultimate fulfillment.

CF: There has to be a hint, even when the quest is hidden.

KA: Even romance novels follow the hero’s journey.

CF: Literary fiction can be more metaphorical.

CH: Two people may want to achieve the same goal, but in different ways or for different reasons. In some of the epic stories, things fall apart. Every King Arthur has his Mordred.

Q: Is the hero’s journey a western convention?

NM: The template aspect is western, but Campbell studied cultures all over the world to identify the pattern. The basis of the hero’s journey is universal.

CH: The hero’s journey doesn’t fit with some of the eastern stories, though. They can be more cyclic in nature. The Shiva trilogy by Amish Tripathi is an example.

CF: It’s a matter of interpretation.

KA: If you want a simplified version of the three act structure: chase your character up a tree; throw rocks at them; have them climb back down.

NM: In the third act resolution, the hero’s resolve must be tested.

And that was time.

Next week: The Ad Astra 2015 wrap post with my usual picture of my bookish purchases.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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