Showing posts with label call to adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label call to adventure. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 8

NaNoWriMo Day 8: 7th Key Scene: Call to Adventure

NaNoWriMo Day 8: 7th Key Scene: Call to Adventure


I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.

The Midpoint: Breaking It Down


In the Call to Adventure the protagonist accepts a quest, takes on a challenge that will occupy her till the Climax at the end of the story. I’m going to call this challenge the Story Goal because it will be the engine driving the action of the story, of the plot, right up to the very end. This goal defines the protagonist’s arc and becomes the story’s backbone, tying all the other character arcs to itself.

The protagonist doesn’t always accept the Call to Adventure. Often she rejects the Call and must be talked into it, often by a mentor. If a mentor is involved they may give the protagonist something that will aid her on her journey. For example, in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi gives Luke his father’s lightsaber.

What is it?


A problem/challenge. At the Call to Adventure the hero is offered a challenge or adventure.  The Call must make it clear what the hero’s goal is.

Stakes established. The Call to Adventure should reveal the states. We need to know what will count as a win and what will count as a loss, and we need to know how the protagonist will be rewarded for a win and what price will be exacted if she loses.

Call is freely accepted. The protagonist must be able to reject the Call to Adventure. Sure, there might be dire consequences if she rejects the Call but, nevertheless, it’s important that she has the opportunity.

The upshot: During the Call to Adventure, a decision must be made, action then taken and a conflict faced.

The Difference Between the Inciting Incident and the Call to Adventure


As we saw when we talked about the Inciting Incident, the Ordinary World is relatively static at the beginning of the story. Often, there is something deeply wrong with the protagonist’s normal existence, but it could also be that she is simply in stasis. She is surviving but she isn’t living.

Another way of looking at the protagonist’s initial state is that she has reached a kind of false, local, optima. The protagonist isn't happy and knows she's not happy but is scared that if she tries to change, her life will get worse.

For example, in the movie The Matrix, at the beginning of the story Neo—or, rather, Mr. Thomas Anderson—knows that something is wrong; not just with his life but with the world. He doesn’t know what exactly is wrong, but he has searched for the answer all his life.

The _Inciting Incident_ shatters the protagonist’s status quo, her state of equilibrium. Something happens that changes the protagonist’s world, a change which will, sooner or later, shatter her status quo. The Inciting Incident creates an imbalance, an inequality that the protagonist must, eventually, address.

At the beginning of _The Matrix_ words, unbidden, flash on Anderson's computer screen: "Follow the white rabbit." I would argue that this is the inciting incident, the event that sets a series of other events in motion that, eventually, leads to his call to adventure. Or the Inciting Incident could have happened in the backstory when Cypher first began to work for the first Matrix.

One could argue that Anderson receives a few calls to adventure, but I think that the Call came when Morpheus tries to talk Neo out of his office building so he can avoid the Agents capturing him. Mr. Anderson declines the Call to Adventure. This changes when, at the end of Act One when, Neo is offered the choice between the red pill and the blue pill.  Then he makes a choice and is locked into the quest.

I find it fruitful to view the Inciting Incident and the Call to Adventure as conceptually distinct because they serve different, though complementary, functions.

As we saw in that section, the Inciting Incident (which is an exciting incident) is meant to a) grab the audience's attention and b) sets the story in motion by breaking the status quo. The Call to Adventure, on the other hand, connects the hero to the cataclysmic changes in the Ordinary World.

You can see how these two events, the Inciting Incident and Call to Adventure, would often go together.

The bottom line: If how you view the Inciting Incident and Call to Adventure works for you, then great! In the end there's only one rule: use what works for you.

Where is it?


The Call to Adventure happens at the same time or shortly after the Inciting Incident. Definitely within the first act (the first 25% of the story).

How is it connected to the protagonist’s desires?


The Call to Adventure connects the protagonist to the changes in the world that the Inciting Incident introduced. The Call to Adventure must also be a call to take some action that will move the protagonist closer to fulfilling their internal and external desires.

The Midpoint: Examples


In Star Wars IV: A New Hope, the Call to Adventure occurs when Obi-Wan Kenobi asks Luke to join him as he travels to Alderaan to bring the plans for the Death Star to the resistance.

Testing the Scene Example


Was a challenge put forward? Yes! Obi-Wan Kenobi asked Luke to join him on a dangerous mission to aid the rebel alliance.

Are the stakes clear? Yes. If the information Princess Leia gave to R2-D2 isn’t delivered to the resistance then the rebellion will be defeated.

Is the quest freely accepted? Yes. Luke rejects the Call at first, but after his aunt and uncle are murdered by the Empire Luke takes up the quest and accompanies Obi-Wan Kenobi.

How the Call to Action is Implemented in Three Genres: Action, Romance & Mystery


Action Genre


I’ve gone over this, above.

Romance Genre


I said before, when we were going over the inciting Incident, that that point is where the lovers-to-be are thrown into conflict. The Inciting Incident is the point at which the protagonist’s world is altered, but it’s not necessarily where the Call to Adventure is given.

In a romance story the Call to Adventure has to do with the call to bond with another human being, the call to make oneself vulnerable. It  is the call to love another even as we wish to be loved.

By the way, in doing research for this article I came across a terrific resource: The Hero’s Journey for Romance Writers.

Murder Mystery Genre


In a murder mystery, the Call occurs when the sleuth agrees to take on the responsibility of solving the murder and, by so doing, to bring justice to the community.



Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it to my readers. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post. :-)

Today I’d like to recommend Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen by by Robert Mckee. From the blurb: “From Macbeth to Breaking Bad, McKee deconstructs key scenes to illustrate the strategies and techniques of dialogue. DIALOGUE applies a framework of incisive thinking to instruct the prospective writer on how to craft artful, impactful speech.”



That’s it! If you’re doing NaNo, how’s it going? My take on NaNo is that as long as you write more in November than you would have otherwise, you’re a winner!

Talk to you again tomorrow, in the meantime, good writing!

Word count so far: 11,385
Word count for today: 1370
Total words this month: 12,755

Friday, February 7

The Inciting Incident vs The Call To Adventure

The Inciting Incident vs The Call To Adventure


Something I've been meaning to write about for a while is the difference between the Inciting Incident and the Call to Adventure.

This is one of those posts you might not agree with. You might think the Inciting Incident and the Call to Adventure are one and the same. If so, fine. I think there are good and credible arguments to that effect and luminaries such as Christopher Vogler don't emphasize the difference between the two.

If thinking about the Inciting Incident as synonymous with the Call to Adventure works for you, great! Ignore this post. If, however, you're curious about what might be gained by viewing these two events as distinct, or if you feel there might be a good reason for looking at the two differently, I invite you to read on.

The Inciting Incident


I used to believe that the inciting incident was pretty much the same thing as the Call to Adventure. For example, when I wrote the blog post "Larry Brooks On The Structure Of Short Stories," I talked about both under the same heading. I now think there's good reason to keep the two conceptually distinct even though, in practice, they can occur at the same time.

So, let's talk about the Inciting Incident, what are its characteristics?

First of all, the Inciting Incident is the exciting incident--or at least it should be. 

Syd Field writes in Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting:

"You've only got 10 [script] pages to grab the attention of your reader or audience; that's why so many films open with an attention-grabbing sequence like the opening of Jaws [...]. Once you establish this scene or sequence, usually called the inciting incident, you can set up the rest of your story."

"Shakespeare is a master of openings. Either he opens with an action sequence, like the ghost walking the parapet in Hamlet, or the witches foretelling the future in Macbeth, or he uses a scene revealing something about the character: Richard III is hunch-backed and laments about the "winter of our discontent [...]."

"Your story determines the type of opening you choose."

The Inciting Incident does two things; it has two functions. First, it grabs the attention of the audience and, second, it draws the main character (either immediately or after a chain of actions and reactions) into the story.

The Call to Adventure


The Call to Adventure is pretty much what it sounds like.

Christopher Vogler, in The Writer's Journey, writes:
"The hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure to undertake. Once presented with a Call to Adventure, she can no longer remain indefinitely in the comfort of the Ordinary World.

"Perhaps the land is dying, as in the King Arthur stories of the search for the Grail, the only treasure that can heal the wounded land. In Star Wars, the Call to Adventure is Princess Leia's desperate holographic message to wise old Obi-Wan Kenobi, who asks Luke to join in the quest."

"The Call to Adventure establishes the stakes of the game, and makes clear the hero's goal: to win the treasure or the lover, to get revenge or right a wrong, to achieve a dream, confront a challenge, or change a life."

"Typically, in the opening phase of a story, heroes have 'gotten by' somehow. They have handled an imbalanced life through a series of defenses or coping mechanisms. Then all at once some new energy enters the story that makes it impossible for the hero to simply get by any longer. A new person, condition, or information shifts the hero's balance, and nothing will ever be the same. A decision must be made, action taken, the conflict faced. A Call to Adventure has been delivered, often by a character who manifests the archetype of the Herald."

The Difference


The Ordinary World of the hero is relatively static at the beginning of the story. Often, there is something deeply wrong with the hero's normal existence, with the hero's Ordinary World, and he exists in a state of imperfection. One way of looking at this is as a kind of false, local, optima. The hero isn't happy and knows he's not happy but is scared that if he tries to change things will get worse. 

A good example of this is of Neo--or, rather, Mr. Thomas Anderson--in The Matrix. In the beginning Anderson knows that something is wrong; not just with his life but with the world. The problem: he doesn't know what. He's searching.

The hero's stasis, his status quo, the state of equilibrium he exists in, is shattered by the Inciting Incident. Something happens that introduces a change into his world, a change which will--sooner or later--shatter his status quo. The Inciting Incident creates an imbalance, an inequality that the hero must, eventually, address. 

At the beginning of The Matrix words, unbidden, flash on Anderson's computer screen: "Follow the white rabbit." I would argue that this is the inciting incident, the event that sets a series of other events in motion that, eventually, leads to his call to adventure. 

One could argue that Anderson receives a few different calls to adventure, but certainly the event that shatters his status quo and locks him into the adventure occurs at the end of Act One when he is offered the choice between the red pill and the blue pill.

Example: Star Wars IV A New Hope


Although there doesn't seem to be consensus on the point, I'm one of those who think that, in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, the Inciting Incident was when Darth Vader--seeking the plans for the Death Star the Resistance 'acquired'-- attacks and boards Princess Leia's shuttle. 

When Darth Vader attacks Princess Leia's diplomatic craft Vader introduces an imbalance, an imbalance that initiates a chain of events that eventually involve the hero and lead to the Call to Adventure.

Granted, the Call to Adventure doesn't come till much later, but the Inciting Incident (DV boarding the shuttle) has set in motion a series of events which will culminate in the call to adventure (the call occurs when OWK asks Luke Skywalker to help him deliver the plans to the resistance base on Alderaan).

Summary


Whether or not you agree with me about the Inciting Incident in Star Wars, I find it fruitful to view the Inciting Incident and the Call to Adventure as conceptually distinct because they serve different, though complementary, functions. 

The Inciting Incident (=exciting incident) functions to a) grab the audience's attention and b) sets the story in motion by breaking the status quo.

The Call to Adventure, on the other hand, connects the hero to the cataclysmic changes in the Ordinary World.

You can see how these two events would often go together.

The bottom line: If how you view the Inciting Incident and Call to Adventure works for you, then great! In the end there's only one rule: use what works for you.

Photo credit: "2014-037 the talk on the cereal box" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, February 28

Writing And The Monomyth

Writing And The Monomyth

Let's get back to talking about writing, the butt-in-chair stuff.


The Monomyth


Just as all philosophy is a footnote to Plato, all plots are variations of the monomyth. Perhaps, in writing circles, the best known version of the myth is the one popularized by Christopher Vogler in his wonderful book, The Writer's Journey.

I believe that every writer has internalized his or her own particular version of the monomyth. This is the structure that organizes our stories.

Each of our individual monoymths is going to be different because each writer is unique. We each have a different perspective on life and the world and this is going to show itself in our work.

What follows is my version of the monomyth. This version is no better than anyone else's (and hopefully no worse!) and I present it here more as an exercise for myself to make my implicit understanding of story structure explicit. If something I write resonates with you then I invite you to use it and if something doesn't then ignore it, it's not for you.


The Stages of the Monomyth


1. The ordinary world


Here we see the hero (the hero can be a male or female) in the ordinary world. This is the life he is used to. For instance, at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope we see Luke working on his Uncle's farm.

SHOW the hero in the ordinary world. Take this as an opportunity to show what the hero is good at. What is he comfortable with? What is he terrible at? What are his hopes and dreams?

2. Call to adventure


A force crashes into the heroes ordinary world. Something happens, something changes. Perhaps a herald/messenger comes with news that the hero's great uncle has passed away and left him a mansion. Perhaps a malfunctioning droid shows him pictures of a pretty girl pleading for help.

3. Refusal of the call


The hero doesn't always refuse the call to adventure, but at the very least he has to consider what answering the call would mean. What would he have to give up? What might he gain?

4. Meeting the mentor


If the hero refuses the call to adventure the mentor can help spell out the stakes for him and motivate him to explore the strange new world that awaaits those few brave enough to attempt the journey. Even if the hero is eager to be off, the mentor can provide him with advice, or perhaps equipment, or--if it's a fantasy--a magical charm or three.

Often the mentor travels with the hero as a helper. Nearly always the mentor dies or leaves the party before the climax of the story, leaving the hero on his own to meet the final test alone.

Think of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid or Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope. The mentor knows more about the special world where the adventure will take place (e.g., the world beyond Luke's home planet of Tatooine; knowledge of The Force).

5. Entering the special world 


Before the hero leaves the ordinary world he often has to pass a test given by a threshold guardian. He doesn't quite pass the test, or he does but he makes the guardian angry, and is tossed into the belly of a whale, or trash compactor, or otherwise left for dead.

In any case, something happens to the hero such that he is swallowed into the unknown and begins--perhaps grudgingly--to adapt to the ways of the special world.

The special world is the land of adventure. There are different rules here, different social norms, different dangers. What the hero was good at he is no longer and what the hero couldn't do before now becomes possible.

After entering the special world the hero goes through a period of adjustment. Think about Luke when he goes into the Mos Eisley Cantina with Obi Wan Kenobi and the wonderful strangeness of the customers, the setting.

Have you ever used the monomyth to help structure your stories? Is there another structure you use? If so, please share!
Update: The discussion of the monomyth is continued here: Writing And The Monomyth, Part 2.

Other articles you might like:

- Steven Pressfield Gives Writers A Pep Talk In A "Get Off Your Duff And Start Writing!" Kind Of Way
- Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story
- Podcasting on the iPad

Photo credit: "let's type" by |vvaldzen| under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.