The Hero's Journey: ACT 1
An Introduction to the First 5 Stages of the 12 Stages of the Hero's Journey
Every story has a hero, a villain and complimentary characters. In this article we will talk about the first 5 of 12 stages, how they impact your story and why they are crucial.
First let's discuss characters. Every story will have characters, sometimes several sometimes a few. Keeping track of who your characters support can be tricky, so the least you have the better.
The Hero/ Protaganist
The main guy, he's the one who's going to fix it all. At first he'll be lost, then he'll find his way and do his thing. He is going to have the supporting characters, the people who help him on his quest.
The Romantic Interest
A hero can have a girl/guy love interest. Specifically, a love interest will propel your hero forward, or bring him down. Never both. A romantic interest can make mistakes which can inhibit the hero, but she/he never intends the hero harm.
A hero will have some form of a mentor. This goes for villains as well. If you have a villain as a main character, or your protagonist. He's the teacher who will at some point not be of any help anymore once the hero realizes his worth. Think of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and his role in Bilbo's story. Gandalf also plays a mentor role for Frodo. Uncanny.
The Villain/ Antagonist
The bad guy basically. He wants the opposite of what your character wants. He's usually got opposing goals, or differing opinions. Not always evil. Depending on the genre of your story, your villain can be evil, maniacal, spoiled rotten, selfish or a simple bully that needs stomping.
The Best Friend/Sidekick
This is the Protagonist's best bud. He/she is the guy who will play an opposing role in the story. Often the comedic relief, but sometimes a crucial role. Think Samwise to Frodo. In LOTR Frodo would NEVER have made it to Mordor without Sam. Never. Gollum would have totally gotten that ring. Sam is often skeptical of everything, he's worried for Frodo, even loves him as a friend. A friend role is that. We all cried when Frodo sent Sam away, you know you did. (Don't lie to yourself) It is that relationship that makes the story so pivotal. How one journey could rest on Sam being Frodo's support. The weight so heavy, but Sam was there to "share the load" if you will.
These are the MAIN characters you can have. However, there are others that get more specific and thought not every character has to fulfill a special role, you'll realize as you write that they often do by themselves.
Here are a few others just to demonstrate:
Narrator: The Narrator of your story (If you have one) example: Big Fish
Tag along: Someone who joins your adventure for a short while example: Cedric Diggory/ Harry Potter
Teachers: We don't know much about them, but they are still in sight and some can play a role similar to a mentor's role. Example: Lupin or Slughorn from Harry Potter.
After you've established your character's, written a short bio for each, gotten their appearance straightened out and decided at which point they will appear you can move on.
The Hero's Journey: We will use The Hobbit for this example.
1. The Ordinary World
This is getting a brief view of normal life for your Protagonist. For Bilbo it's Bag End. That is home. It's quiet and nothing big ever happens. They keep to themselves, have a quiet day and no one is the wiser. You are describing the basic life of your character before the poop hits the fan.
In ACT 1 there are five basic events that will happen.
2. Call to Adventure
Gandalf decides Bilbo needs an adventure. "It will be very good for you" he says. When Gandalf and the Dwarves explain to Bilbo their need for a burglar it is at that point that Bilbo is presented with the question. Will you stay home? Or, will you go on an adventure? It's the call, every hero must answer it. Of course if they say no, there is no adventure.
Bilbo initially says no, but then he's like... you know what.. I'd actually like to do something different. He's nervous, but he goes. He refuses to go... he doesn't want to leave home and he passes out from the shock of it all. These all show how different he is from what the dwarves actually need. However, it will also provide a base for his change. All hero's are never what they were when they began their journey, they get brave, overcome their fear and decide to be bold.
4. Meeting the Mentor
This one can fall in a few places. Bilbo meets Gandalf early in the story, in between the Ordinary World and the Refusal. So, in this case Gandalf would become his mentor when he actually gives him something to learn. Maybe it happens at the end of the Refusal, or when Radagast meets them. This section is a little slippery in the Hobbit and I guess what Tolkien decided to do was to make Gandalf fall into the role seamlessly.
This is not a required stage—but it often provides more stability.
5. Crossing the Threshold / END OF ACT 1
This will take place at the end of Act 1—its when the Protagonist leaves his normal world and enters into the world of the unknown. Ahead of him awaits enemies, tests, challenges and scary stuff. Bilbo doesn't know it, but he probably won't see home for awhile. In a fictional story leaving the Ordinary world can be as simple as a change. For instance, when Harry Potter finds out he's a wizard. His world is not normal anymore, and as soon as he enters Hogwarts he's left his world behind.
In Part Two we will discuss the events that take place in ACT 2.