The Ordeal is the main event of the story, and a heightened point in the hero’s character arc where he transcends who he once was, and truly grows.
Death and Rebirth
Death and Rebirth is the primary point of The Ordeal. The concept is simple: The Hero has to die in order to be reborn. In some way, the hero should face death or something similar to it. This might include the end of a relationship, the death of personality, or the loss of a job.
The hero should survive this death and become literally or symbolically reborn. After this point, the hero will have passed his final test, and he can receive the reward.
After the hero experiences The Ordeal, he will come home a changed man. No hero can come so close to death without being changed in some way.
Placement of The Ordeal depends on the storyteller. The most common placement is towards the middle of the story, but it may also be placed near the end. It’s completely a matter of choice.
A witness (or witnesses) is often involved with the death and rebirth process. This witness should see the death of the hero (or what appears to be the hero’s death), momentarily mourn, and then celebrate when he sees the hero rise again.
These witnesses are solely for the audience, so they can identify, and feel the pain of death with them.
The death of the hero should have an emotional impact on the audience. The thought of the hero’s death will depress the audience, and bring them down for a moment. When they find that the hero ]has survived, their emotion will skyrocket upward. They will feel elated and satisfied, if the “death and rebirth” sequence is done correctly.
The Ordeal often involves facing an opposing force, usually in battle. This opposing force could be a villain, or it could even be a force of nature. This force should represent some of the hero’s fears and unlikable qualities.
Death of the Opponent
Sometimes, in the hero’s symbolic “death and rebirth”, the villain (or opponent/opposing force) will actually die. In this case, the hero will likely have to deal with other opposing forces on the road home.
Escape of the Opponent
Sometimes, the opponent will escape and have to be dealt with later, usually towards the end of the story.
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The mentor represents a wise figure whose purposes include protecting, teaching, testing, guiding, and training the hero. In meeting with the mentor, he provides the hero with something he needs to take on the Hero’s Journey, sometimes multiple times. In meeting with the mentor, the hero gains the knowledge, confidence, and supplies that he needs in order to start the adventure.
Meeting with the Mentor
There are a lot of stories that tell of the relationship between the hero and the mentor. Mentor’s hold a vital force during the key moments of the hero’s story.
Sources of Wisdom
In some cases, there may not be a specific character playing the role of the mentor. If this is the case, the hero almost always needs to find some source of wisdom before he takes on the adventure. This may involve the hero finding wisdom within himself, or they may simply consult a map of the adventure. Either way, your hero will (or should) want to know exactly what he’s taking on.
Avoiding the Cliched Mentor
The mentor archetype is a character that the audience will be extremely familiar with. The mentor appears in dozens upon dozens of stories. For this reason, it’s very easy to let your mentor become cliche, or fall into a stereotype. So, defy the typical archetype. Don’t allow your mentor to become a fairy godmother, or an old man in a pointy hat. Make your mentor completely out of the norm, or do without him altogether and see what happens.
Conflict Between Hero and Mentor
If the hero is ungrateful, or prone to violence, the relationship between the hero and the mentor can take a turn for the worst. Other times, the mentor becomes the villain and betrays the hero. If utilized correctly, this can be an interesting turning point in the story.
The mentor has a strong influence on the hero’s decisions, if only for a short time. Sometimes, the mentor only has a passing influence, but this influence is critical to get the hero moving and undertaking the journey ahead of him. Whether presented as a character, or not, this archetype is critical to get the story moving.
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The Call to Adventure is the second part of The Hero’s Journey, where the adventure is initiated. It has also been called the Inciting event, initiating incident, trigger, or catalyst. Regardless of what you call it, something has to happen to get the story moving. There are a number of ways that the Call to Adventure can occur. These methods can range from a message/messenger to some kind of disastrous event that forces the hero to take action.
Call to Adventure
There are a number of events that might move the hero into action. Those events may not even be caused by outside forces. It might be a desire that’s boiling inside the main character. Because of this, choosing the right event is key.
String of Events
A series of events/accidents may force your character into action. Most of these events/actions/words/accidents will be coincidental, and will inspire your character to take on the adventure.
Temptation might be just the right element to get your hero to take action. Temptation could include the lure of a lover, treasure, knowledge, or exploration. The desire for something might be just the thing your character needs to start his adventure.
The Call is often delivered to the hero by a character archetype called the Herald. Regardless of the Herald’s personality, he’ll always perform the same role. It’s the Herald’s job to initiate the call to adventure, and to get the story moving. A lot of the time, the hero doesn’t realize that there’s any need for change in his Ordinary World. He remains in a state of denial, and relies on crutches that he doesn’t see to stay happy. The Herald is present to kick away those crutches, and make the hero realize that he’s actually unstable. The hero will often have a difficult time in the beginning determining if the herald is good or bad.
Sometimes the Call to Adventure occurs because of the villain. The villain might invade the Ordinary World and start asking questions about the hero, or survey the area for any threats. This can sometimes alert the hero, forcing him into action.
Lack or Need
Sometimes the Call appears in the form of a lack or a need. This lack can come from the loss of anything precious, and the need to get that precious thing back.
The hero may take on the adventure because he doesn’t have any other options. The situation might become increasingly dire, until the hero just doesn’t have any choice but to take on the adventure. People in his world may even become fed up with him, and force him out.
For Tragic Hero’s, the Call may not be a positive summons, drawing the character out. It may instead come in the form of a warning of the Hero’s demise, a failed adventure, or doom.
Because stories often have a number of layers, or a certain amount of complexity… they may contain more then one Call. If necessary, don’t be afraid to include more then one. Do what you have to to get the hero out of his comfort zone.
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