Tuesday, April 13, 2010

K is for The Kraken Makes You A Better Writer

The "K" is for the Kraken makes you a better writer, I am completely serious. Ok, hear me out before you roll your eyes. We find the Kraken in the tale of Hercules...a legendary adventure.  In fact, almost every epic adventure tale is based on the Hero's Journey. The term was coined in the mid-1900s, in Joseph Campbell's book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.  He realized that in every mythic/epic journey there are several common elements. You can find these steps in Greek mythology like the Odyssey and in blockbuster movies like the Matrix. A PhD student named, Richard Kemp did a fascinating six-minute video using Star Wars as an example of the Heroe's Journey.  It's a really great project. 

The reason I am telling you this is that the steps that a hero takes is a great way to block out a novel...especially fantasy novels.  Click here for a detailed explanation of the steps, as explained by a college professor, if you're interested.  The premise is pretty straightforward and as I list off the steps, you'll probably recognize them in some of your favorite stories.  The first part, I think, is the hardest to set up in a novel.
  • Departure -  The call to adventure, the refusal, supernatural aid, crossing the first threshold, and the belly of the whale.
This is hard because you have to make your hero all happy and comfortable in his 'home world' and then ruin it somehow. Usually a tragedy sets things in motion. A new element is introduced, some sort of conflict like an Evil Empire, or a Princess's plea.  The hero is reluctant, frightened even...you get the picture. The next phase of the journey is the 'on-the-road' experiences.
  • Initiation - trials, temptress/goddess, atonement with the father, apotheosis or time of peace, and finally, ulitmate boon.
Think of this as the second act. The Star Wars example gives Luke's destroying of the Death Star as the ultimate boon. Remember, although it was the end of the movie...it was actually halfway through his journey to becoming a Jedi. The final leg of the journey resolves the heroe's place in the world, his allegiances, and usually his future.
  • Return - refusal of the return, magic flight, rescue from without, crossing the return threshold, master of two worlds, and freedom to live.
This is the climax and denoument section. For example, the part in Return of the Jedi, where Luke is at the Ewok party and he sees and speaks with his father and Obi Wan Kenobi in their spirit essences...that is the Master of Two Worlds section. He now stradles the world of the ordinary, and the mythical or mystical world of his new nature.  Interesting stuff, really.

The study of this framework for fiction writing shed light not only on my own writing and why I was struggling, but the complexity of other works. Thanks for joining me on this literary meander through the classics...I'd be interested to hear from you fantasy writers. What type of framework do you use?

Dont forget to sign up on the side bar for the Primal Scream Blogfest - Your Most Heart Pumping Scene!  The Blogfest will take place on May 5th...can't wait!
Until next time, Go Write!

Photograph by kevindooley, Uploaded on January 18, 2008.


Grammy said...

Hey, there, Racquel!
Thanks for your visits to my blog and the commentaries! I am really enjoying them, and will be back to see you again. The response to the challenge A to Z has been phenomenal, hasn't it? I love meeting so many new people and making new friends. I am in the midst of cutting out strips for a new baby quilt right now. I had never really thought about the different sections to a book, just usually look forward to the denouement? explanation I guess, of the solving of the mystery. I am a reader of fantasy, adventure, and murder mysteries. I love to see if I can figure out the killer before the central character does.
I'll be back.

Grammy said...

P.S. I would like to follow your blog but not on facebook. I just want it to show up on my dashboard with updates so I can get to it easily. Any suggestions?

B. Miller said...

This is an awesome post! I love Star Wars AND mythology, so I had a great time reading this. I also love how the three original moves can be broken down into their own acts of a trilogy.

Thanks for sharing!! :)

Watery Tart said...

This was FANTASTIC! I actually went back, started the video over, took notes and then printed that professor sheet off. I am finishing a trilogy that has enough of these elements that I am going to use this guideline for my rewrite. I think it can improve things... increase tension, wreak a little more havok. Thank you!

Raquel Byrnes said...

So glad you liked the post. I thought it was great that he used Star Wars...I can wrap my mind around that!

Have fun messing with your characters!

Carol Fleisher said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Great writing tips. Thanks for sharing them.

Kelly said...

I'm not really a writer, but this was a really interesting read!

Gregg said...

Very interesting. Not being a writer or reader of fiction I have learned alot reading these posts like this one. Thanks.

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

This was GREAT! Thanks for this - I can use this in my non-fantasy writing as well because every book needs a conflict. The more conflict, the more that's at stake, and the more that's at stake, the more interesting the story. So thanks!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those are excellent steps, Raquel.

And saw your comment on Arlee's blog. I'm a military brat as well, so no home town for me.

Creative Chronicler said...

What an awesome "K"! Love the post and the look of your blog.

Grammy said...

Thanks for the "follow" button! i'll be able to follow you now, and I shall.

Grammy said...

Thanks for the "follow" button! i'll be able to follow you now, and I shall.

ModernDayDrifter said...

This is interesting. While I'm not into all of that "mythical" stuff it still was neat to read your input about "Kraken's." Great post.

Ellie said...

Hi Raquel, I love this post, it really highlights the key points and we all know how this frames the story line. I love Star Wars and how everyone who watches it can relate to it in many different facets.

Lorena G. Sims said...

I'm glad you add that Follow Button. I am now following you. Nice post and I've enjoy watching the video.

Anonymous said...

Hercules will be on one of the Discovery Channels tomorrow. I saw part of it and want to see it in its entirety. I love these ancient myths acted out in a one hour program.'

Stephen Tremp

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Great post. I think generally every 'novel' follows these rule to a certain degree, don't you think?