Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where The Story Starts 2

So how does the Hero's Journey work? I’ve taken three romance stories many people have read. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, published in 1813; at the very beginning or romance writing. Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer, published in 1932, one of the first historical romances, and Legally Blonde, the movie, released June 2001 based on a novel by Amanda Brown, a romantic comedy.

Why not use science fiction or fantasy stories? Because that’s where you expect to find mythological and folktale characteristics. If the precepts of the hero’s journey work, they should work across all genres and all media.

Opening sentences of Pride and Prejudice:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little know the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.”

Within two sentences Jane Austin has established her setting (Austen’s contemporary society) – a typical upper-class neighborhood. This is the ordinary world of the heroine. Austin also indicates the impending journey about to start.

The opening sentence from Devil’s Cub:
“There was only one occupant of the couch, a gentleman who sprawled very much at his ease, with his legs stretched out before him, and his hands dug deep in the capacious pockets of his greatcoat. While the coach rattled over the cobbled streets of the town, the light from an occasional lantern or flambeau momentarily lit the interior of the vehicle and made a diamond pin or a pair of very large shoe-buckles flash, but since the gentleman lounging in the coach wore his gold-edged hat tilted low over his eyes, his face remained in shadow.”

I had forgotten the way this story started. I’ve always considered it Mary’s (the heroine) journey. And while most romances are about the heroine’s journey, Devil’s Cub is about the hero’s journey. That is why the story starts in Dominic’s very exclusive self-centered world. It’s his world that changes. While you might think his abduction of Mary significantly changes her world, it doesn’t. Mary remains the same character as when she first walks into the story.

From Legally Blonde (the movie) opening scene:
A pretty girl in close-fitting clothes riding a bicycle with an envelope addressed to “Elle" in the basket. She is riding through a college town, passing frat boys and pulls into a sorority house. Scenes shift between typical happenings in the sorority. Hawaiian singer Hoku sings “It’s a Perfect Day.” (It’s a perfect day, nothing standing in my way.)

Everything about this is so upbeat. Elle Woods, the heroine, has a perfect life. She is blonde, beautiful and lives on the surface of life with few cares and expectations that only good can come her way. Change is about to come, and Elle changes, but still expects good to come her way.

So there you have it, openings showing the ordinary world that is about to change as the world of adventure calls.

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