Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HJ4W 8 The Ordeal

Writing Wednesday - The Hero's Journey for Writers

Having gathered Allies and made preparations on the way to The In-most Cave, in the mythic cycle the hero and their party undergo an Ordeal:
"Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life."
Likely because that sounds too esoteric, Kim Hudson* calls this phase The Crisis:
"The Crisis is the first major confrontation with the antagonist. The villain's power is revealed and the hero gets a good taste of fear as he barely escapes with his life. This is sometimes knows as the false death and comes as a foreshadowing of the impending challenge to death in the Final Battle."
While there are any number of things that can go wrong on our journey as writers, the single biggest ordeal is rejection.

The first round of rejection is particularly challenging because (if you tried to do things right) you put so much effort into polishing the manuscript before submitting that it's hard to believe there's anyone who wouldn't like your story.

And largely because of all that effort, the rejections unleash the monsters of self-doubt: if all those industry pros don't like it, the story can't be as good as you thought--in deed, you can't be as good as you thought. Why are you even trying?

This is the moment in the cycle when the hero is overshadowed by death.

This is the moment when many writers succumb, because no amount of hearing you should expect rejection prepares you for the reality of the pain that comes when something into which you've poured so much love, effort, and devotion into is rejected.

Even if you know at a rational level that given the number of competing manuscripts your chances are slim, it doesn't lessen the sting of the rejection.

Even if you've been down the publishing road before, and have already suffered more than your fair share of rejections, the second, or fourth, or ninth time doesn't hurt any less (in part because you think you know how to do it right this time).

So what do you do?

The hero in the journey pushes on, strengthened by the fact that they faced death and lived. And, painful though it was, they've learned or acquired something (though they may not know it) that will help them in the Final Battle.

* Kim Hudson, The Virgin's Promise

Image: Simon Howden /

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