Friday, August 01, 2008

The Hero's Journey

The Sisters in Crime discussion board has been full of posts about the hero's journey lately--the Joseph Campbell theory about mythology derived from his study of Jung. As I understand it, the basic idea is that the central figure in any good storytelling is on a quest or journey, from the Iliad to Moby Dick to, perhaps, Stephen King. There has been much debate--if you consciously try to apply such a theory to your writing, does your work turn wooden and artificial? Does that pattern subconsciously work itself into writing. Does your hero or heroine have to grow and change during the story? Does such theoretical debate ruin writing, and should you forget it and just go ahead and tell the story?
I'm not sure where I stand on all that--I've done a fair amount of study of it in a book whose title I now can't remember to save my life (how's that for helpful) and I think my view is that the pattern should be there without the writer consciously saying, "Oops. I have to apply the idea of the hero's journey here." But it made me think about Kelly Jones, protagonist of my mystery series. Where is she going? Does she change during the course of the novel? I've always believed that a good novel, from belles lettres to mystery, should leave the reader in a slightly different, slightly better or more knowledgeable place, than when he or she started the book. It should make you think, even if it's pleasure reading.So probably the same is true for the characters, at least the ones you want the reader to care about. They should change, grow. I think of Jodi Picoult's Mercy, which certainly left me moved and also saw characters grow, become more confident, sure of their thinking.
Now I have to go back and read the first of my novels again with that in mind. Rewriting is a never ending business. And like other things, growth and change cannot be pasted into a book.
Our heat wave continues unabated--104 tomorrow and through the weekend, not relief in sight until late next week and then relief means under 100. I caught a summer cold, presumably from Jordan, and have felt some miserable this week. Today I feel okay but I cannot stop coughing. Jacob is coming to spend the night, and when I told Jordan I was worried about giving it to him, she suggested I wash my hands a lot. Oh, well--he didn't get it from her, so he probably won't get it from me.
Other than Jacob's visit and a Sunday night dinner to celebrate a neighbor's birthday, I intend to lay low this weekend. My life has been gloriously hectic plus a few traumatic doctors' appointments, and I need some down time. I have my writing to work on, a good mystery to read, and a novel I'm excited about to edit. Great ways to stay out of the heat.

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