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All stories are the same at the core. Even our ancient ancestors knew the value of a commercial ending where good triumphs evil and the boy gets the girl. Beowulf. David & Goliath. Jesus. (Okay, so there’s some disqualifying disclaimers about the boy getting the girl thing…but I assure you, we’ve always wanted the good guy to win.) Joseph Campbell recognized it: All stories relate and put into perspective the human experiences (themes, if you will) of love and conflict. It’s why a lot of the time we stare blankly at our screens, wondering what to write and sound original, because nothing has been original since man started scribbling their stories down.
Because Joseph Campbell wasn’t a writer, he wasn’t exactly interesting in how he explained all this. And he certainly didn’t have the benefit of a smörgåsbord of pop hits to explain the key points. Music always gets me in touch with the scenes I need to write, so maybe you can use this to make a little soundtrack for yourself when you find yourself at a hero’s journey step you’re writing. Think how much better the scene with Beowulf and Grendel would be if Who Wants To Live Forever or The Final Countdown had been playing in the background.
The Ordinary World: This is the part where you reveal the lives of the hero and heroine before they meet. What are their problems, what’s missing? This aspect is frequently tied with “The Call to Adventure” as an opening hook, to draw the reader in and keep them interested. It’s a careful balance to reveal enough of the characters that we connect to them and care about the urgent problem.
Song: Ordinary World [Duran Duran]; It’s a Beautiful Life [Ace of Base]
The Call to Adventure: the inciting incident, the hook. The urgent problem that suddenly disrupts the ordinary world where the hero and heroine was previously holding it together. The more urgent, the better.
Song: It’s the End of the World as We Know It [REM]
Refusal of the Call: Clearly we don’t want urgent problems. We are content with the status quo from before, and we make every effort to ignore the problem (in hope it goes away) or give it away (make it someone else’s problem.) And because our natural inclination is to ignore our problems or have someone else take care of them, we create more conflict—and consequences to our actions and inaction.
Song: We Don’t Need Another Hero [Tina Turner]
Meeting with the Mentor: Don’t worry: this is not always Yoda or Gandalf. In a regular romance novel, you don’t exactly go around looking for little green men or white-bearded magicians to pick their brains for advice. But you usually do have the funny sidekick best friend or the precocious child who offers up the one statement that makes the hero/heroine reconsider taking the steps toward love.
Song: That’s What Friends Are For [Dionne Warwick]; You Can Call Me Al [Paul Simon]
Crossing the First Threshold: The first plot point aspect that is frequently referred to in other less fun, confusing writing articles. It is the event that is the first turning point where the hero and heroine are going to start working together.
Song: Let’s Work Together [Canned Heat]; Take a Chance on Me [ABBA]
Tests, Enemies and Allies: The first half of the middle where the hero and heroine are still getting to know each other, where enemies who will cause problems later (as well as here) reveal themselves, where we’ll meet characters who want the hero and heroine together. If you follow the four-act structure, this is the “complications” portion of the programming. I think this is where the sexual tension is building to the boiling point.
Song: Hungry Eyes [Eric Carmen]; Abracadabra [Steve Miller Band]
Approach to the Inmost Cave: Plot point 2. Midpoint of the story where the characters, whether they realize it or not, start to love each other. Trust, intimacy.
Song: Can’t Help Fallin’ In Love [Elvis or UB40]; Fallin’ [Alicia Keys]
The Supreme Ordeal: Plot Point 3, an event that has far reaching consequences and which answers the question posed in the first part of the book. (Frequently characters start out with one goal or want, and here is where it is sorely tested.)
Song: Hanging by a Moment [Lifehouse]; The World I Know [Collective Soul];
Seizing the Sword: Consequences of the Supreme Ordeal, either good or bad.
Song: Everything You Want [Vertical Horizon]; We Are the Champions [Queen]
The Road Back: A somewhat quieter time before (and including) the Black Moment where on the surface things appear fine, but beneath the surface, we know everything is going to implode and have fall out
Song: It Must Have Been Love [Roxette]; Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone) [Cinderella]
Resurrection: The part after the Black Moment where the heroine womans up (or the hero mans up) to their neuroses and gets a grip. Tinkle or get off the pot. Because we’re writing HEA’s—they tinkle.
Song: Return to Me [Bob Dylan]; …Baby, One More Time [Britney Spears]
Return With the Elixir: The HEA. ‘Nuff said.
Song: Baby, I Love Your Way [Big Mountain]; Power of Love [Celine Dion]
So clearly besides my schizophrenic and questionable taste in “pop/rock” music, we can also come to the glaring conclusion I’m no closer to completing my synopsis this week than I was last week and have now chosen to pursue that most noble of all writing traditions: PROCRASTINATION. If you had a soundtrack for the hero’s journey, what songs would you put on it? What’s your hero and heroine’s theme or love song?
And speaking of songs that get you in the “mood” for scenes, what songs do you listen to when you’re writing love scenes? (Bow-chica-bow-wow…) I’m afraid my song choices are just as tasteless as the ones I’ve listed above. Right now I even have Britney’s Slave4You rolling through my mind.