Writing

NaNoWriMo – 2016

I completely missed the beginning of NaNoWriMo this year. I mean, I know when November 1 happened – it appeared on my calendar. But I forgot it was NaNoWriMo.

Not that I intended to participate this year; I knew how crazy this month would be and knew I would have no time.

But to everyone else who is doing it: Good Luck.

I salute you.

General · Writing

What is a writing beat?

I mean, in writing a short story or a novel. What is a beat? I first heard the phrase on Writing Excuses, and I have since heard it in a few other places.  untitled-1

Even though Writing Excuses was where I first heard this term, I don’t think they actually define it in any podcast. Anyway, I haven’t found a podcast dedicated to the concept of writing beats. (I would like to hear one, if you are reading, Writing Excuses.)

According to dictionary.com, it can be:

36. Music.
a. the audible, visual, or mental marking of the metrical divisions of music.
b. a stroke of the hand, baton, etc., marking the time division or an accent for music during performance.

37. Theater. a momentary time unit imagined by an actor in timing actions: Wait four beats and then pick up the phone.

And other Katherine Cowley on her site (http://www.katherinecowley.com/blog/10-keys-to-writing-story-beats-in-novels-with-exercises/) defines it as:

The definition: A beat is the smallest story unit in fiction. Individual words are like atoms. Story beats are the molecules, the real building blocks of the story world. There are different categories or types of story beats including a line of dialogue, a moment of action, a moment of reaction, a moment of inaction, a visual image, an emotion, a setting, a theme, or an instance of meta-storytelling.

So having googled writing beat, I still don’t really understand it. How do I identify the beats in a book?

I am pretty sure there are different types of beats. Story, character, plot, emotional, action and so on and so forth. But I don’t think I can tell one beat from another or even identify a single one in a scene. It is quite confusing.

In this first chapter – which is mostly dialog, just one setting, one scene – from Pride & Prejudice, what are the beats?

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1342/1342-h/1342-h.htm

I suppose they must include the last line? Which is the aim of her life? But . . . is that a story beat, a character beat, a plot beat, an emotional beat? One or more of the above? Story, yes; plot, probably; character, probably; emotional; maybe; action; no?

And what is the difference between story and plot beat? I don’t know. I am confused.

A part of me wants to forget this whole notion of writing beats.

General · reading · Writing

The Belly of the Whale: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.5

The Belly of the Whale

The hero has heard the Call to Adventure, accepted it (the hero may have rejected it first) and has also gotten through the First Threshold. Now our brave hero is in the Belly of the Whale.

Chapter 1.1 was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.2 was about Refusal of the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.3 was about Supernatural Aid.

Chapter 1.4 was about Crossing of the First Threshold

This section about the Belly of the Whale concludes the first chapter of the The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It is called Departure and I imagine it means the hero has finished departing and is well into the adventure.

The book has this to say about The Belly of the Whale:

The idea that the threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died.

To me it sounds like the hero is trapped somehow, maybe by the enemy, maybe by the world itself. Maybe the hero was kidnapped or betrayed into the hands of the enemy. Maybe the enemy has trapped him some other way and he has to shoot his way out.

I am less sure about the rebirth bit of this quote. I think it means being trapped changes the hero somehow, in some fundamental way. Traumatic experiences do change people, but usually not in a good way. A traumatic experience can also turn you into a better person, or at least a more empathic one, so it could go both ways.

In Star Wars (Episode IV: The New Hope) this is when Luke and company are trapped on the Death Star. The point where they jump into the garbage disposal place is the moment when they are in abdomen of the Death Star.

Harry Potter . . . Harry Potter is harder to say. I think this is when he gets past  Fluffy (the three-headed dog) and goes through that trapdoor. They play that  game of chess. Well, this or there isn’t a Belly of the Whale in the first Harry Potter book. What do you guys think?

As for how they change . . . Luke watches his mentor as they fight free of the Death Star. Harry learns something about himself, but after the chess scene, so I am not sure it counts. Because the things that learns about himself could also be another part of the hero’s journey.

Anyway, at the end, I think the Belly of the Whale section is about the hero getting trapped somehow. It doesn’t have to be by the enemy, though it usually is. Cultural norms and things like that could also play a part. The hero’s own emotions could also a play part in trapping him.

reading · Writing

The Crossing of the First Threshold: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.4

The Crossing of the First Threshold

At this point in the Hero’s Journey, the hero has accepted the Call to Adventure and is on his way. The hero has perhaps acquired some Supernatural Aid.

Chapter 1.1 was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.2 was about Refusal of the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.3 was about Supernatural Aid.

The book says this on the First Threshold:

With the personification of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the “threshold guardian” at the entrance to the zone magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in the four directions – also up and down – standing for the limits of the hero’s present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is darkness, the unknown, and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger of the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the member of the tribe.

I think the threshold guardian is someone or something that represents the boundaries of the hero’s world. This could be (probably is!) related somehow to the hero’s culture, to the hero’s place in his culture. Or, it could be, the physical boundaries of his hometown. Maybe both. It could be something that is keeping the hero from moving forward.

Maybe someone is bullying the hero; maybe the hero is being hunted; maybe the hero needs to go get something for his people; maybe the hero needs to go somehow to further himself.

Anyway, beyond this first threshold, is danger. Only heroes brave this danger; non-heroes are happy not crossing this boundary. 

In Star Wars, this was probably when Luke left his home world.

Harry Potter is more difficult. There could be a lot of thresholds, I think. The letters, when Hagrid comes to find him, when Hagrid first takes him to Diagon Alley.

But I think Harry crosses the First Threshold when he gets on the train to Hogwarts. He has to find and cross the weird train station, the one everyone tells him doesn’t exist. Everyone that tells him so, the mere perception that this train station cannot exist is, I think, the threshold guardian. This is when he crosses over to the magical world all by himself! What do you guys think?

The book also says about what is past the First Threshold:

The pairs of opposite (ugliness, good and evil, and all the other polarities that bind the faculties to hope and fear, and link the organs of action to deeds of defense and acquisition) are clashing rocks (Symplegades) that crush the traveler, but between which the heroes always pass.

The Symplegades (http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/symplegades.html) is a Greek myth where two rocks come together to smash anything that passes between; Jason and the Argonauts had advice on how to pass through (ah! Supernatural Aid!) and they did so successfully.

Here, the clashing rocks are a metaphor for the pairs of opposites that can crush the hero. I think they could be physical things, actual dangers to life and limb. But, also, conflicting desires. Hate and love, justice and revenge, greed and generosity, life and death, conflicts of interest, bravery and fear, things like that. Basically, all the trials and tribulations the hero will face past the First Threshold.

Basically, I think this is the beginning of the adventure and danger should quickly follow, along with a way to use the (perhaps unobvious) Supernatural Aid the hero has previously received.

Also, I think this might be end of the Act 1 (if you’re following the Three Act structure, when the hero cannot turn back and is fully committed).

Others Blogging on This Topic:

  1.  Thoughts on Mythic Structure: Crossing the First Threshold from Debbie
  2. back to basics: the hero’s journey, stage five from Brooke Johnson
  3. The Crossing of the First Threshold: Confronting the Guardians from Living Joyfully
  4. Hero’s Journey: Crossing the First Threshold: The Unknown Place from Rainbow Gryphon
  5. Step 4: Crossing The First Threshold from Down The Rabbit Hole and Back
reading

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.2: Refusal of the Call

Chapter one was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter two is about what happens when the hero refuses the Call.

The book says this:

Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.

Basically, after hero refuses the Call to Adventure, life becomes a dreary bore. The hero loses all forward momentum, maybe gets into trouble, maybe gets into trouble and becomes a literal victim.

I mean, in the first Harry Potter movie, after his uncle refused to give him the letters, the whole family ended up in a little lighthouse by the shore. Little Dudley ended up with a pig’s tail. But only the people denying Harry the first book adventure got into trouble. I don’t this counts as a refusal. Well, not by Harry, but I don’t think his uncle can’t refuse for him. (Did Harry Potter have a refusal?)

The book also says this:

The myths and folk tales of the whole world make clear that the refusal is essentially a refusal to give up what one takes to be one’s own interest. The future is regarded not in terms of an remitting series of deaths and births, but as though one’s present system of ideals, virtues, goals and advantages were to be fixed and made secure.

I guess this is why Harry never really refused to be a wizard; it was never in his best interests to refuse such a thing. Never any way to make a refusal seem like a real good idea.

And also why in The Hobbit, Bilbo refused the Call to Adventure, only to be inundated by dwarves.

I think in The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings there was an actual refusal of the Call to Adventure sometime in the second or third book – I don’t remember. Refusing turned out badly for Garian, poor thing.

I guess the second line in that quote about the future is how the characters sees their values and goals as fixed, unchanging. They think: what’s good for me now will always be good for me. But who doesn’t? Who thinks their values might change someday?

flash friday · Writing

Friday Flash: Unexpected Homecoming

Wrote this quick! I think it worked out.

He stumbled down the stairs. Shelia was here, Shelia was here, his beautiful baby girl.

She wore a long white dress, but stared down at the cherry wood of the steps. The top of her head was bare.

He slowed down when he noted a silver chain trailing behind her. It ended in – No! No!

His brother fisted the other end of the silver leash.

His brother’s smirked and mouthed the words: “I win.”

No, he would fight this. It wasn’t over yet. He wouldn’t allow his daughter to suffer.

reading · Writing

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.1

The first chapter is entitled: The Call to Adventure

It says:

This first stage of the mythological journey – which we have designated the “call to adventure” – signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.

So, the call to adventure is something that wants to transport the hero from the comfort of his world to someplace else, someplace the hero doesn’t know, someplace full of treasure and danger.

I think “. . . unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.” means adventure. So the Call to Adventure must take the hero someplace (anyplace!) filled with, well, adventure.

So how does your character know they are being issued a Call to Adventure?

The herald or announcer of the adventure, therefore, is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the world; yet if one could follow, the way would be opened through the walls of day into the dark where the jewels glow. Or the herald is a beast (as in the fairy tale), representative of the repressed instinctual fecundity within ourselves, or again veiled mysterious figure – the unknown.

Darth Vader as the Herald

I take this to mean that the herald announces the adventure and the herald could be:

  • The enemy: I have no difficulty with the idea that evil deeds can constitute a call to adventure. Bad deeds anyway, someone trying to harm you and yours.
  • a symbol of the hero’s fertility: The love interest? Like Helen of Troy? Um. From Frozen, does Anne constitute a herald for Kristoff? She did issue a call to adventure to him, didn’t she?
  • a symbol of the unknown: I don’t quite know what to make of this one. A foreigner? A hurt foreigner?
  • All of the above: Throwing this one out there just because. I think it is possible that the enemy, the fertility symbol and symbol of the unknown to be one and the same.

 

Whether dream or myth, in these adventures there is an atmosphere of irresistible fascination about the figure that appears suddenly as guide, marking a new period, a new stage, in the biography. That which has to be faced, and is somehow profoundly familiar to the unconscious – though unknown, surprising, and even frightening to the conscious personality – makes itself known; and what formerly was meaningful may become strangely emptied of value: like the world of the king’s child, with the sudden disappearance into the well of the golden ball. Thereafter, even though the hero returns for a while to his familiar occupations, they may be found unfruitful. A series of signs of increasing force then will become visible, until – as in the following legend of “The Four Signs” which is the most celebrated example of call to adventure in the literature of the world – the summons can no longer be denied.

This is such long quote! Well. The guide sounds like a symbol of change in the hero’s life, a change so profound that their routine life becomes less satisfying and everything goes wrong.

The Four Signs is the story of Buddha, how he saw something he’d never seen before and his life changed just a little with each sign. The signs foreshadowed his becoming the Buddha. I suppose each figure he saw constitute a guide.

Or maybe a herald – I am not sure. But I think they were probably guides, guides to what happens in the future.

And, finally, the hero gives in to the inevitable and can no longer deny the Call to Adventure. Because everything in the hero’s life is going wrong. So the hero has no choice except to say: Yes, I accept the call to adventure.

What do you guys think? About the herald, the guide and Call to Adventure?