Hero's Journey and Chaos Stories

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There are no rules, only guidelines.

Hero's Journey

This is my philosophy. In this blog I wanted to talk about two story types in reference to books recently read (Dracula and The Invisible Man). Both are about to feature on TV and in the cinema.

However, it's said that the beginner starts with not knowing the rules, then learns them and tries to adapt them before knowing their limitations and the ways they can be circumvented. I think I'm somewhere in the midddle to latter half of this journey. I'm still learning some of the nuances of the hero's journey but also aware of its limitations e.g. cultural or where it can be manipulated e.g. shifting POV, order of events, time.

And it's the first that I want to concentrate on. But first, let's remind ourselves of the classic order is as follows (taken from The Writer's Journey - Christopher Vogler):

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting with the Mentor
  5. Crossing the First Threshold
  6. Test, Allies, Enemies
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
  8. Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixer

 

In Dracula, the main character travels to Transylvannia but after an encounter with Dracula is not seen for at least half the book as the story returns to the UK. He lightly skips through 1-4. However, he does meet the rest of the vampire hunting team, including the mentor Van Helsing. If the main bulk of the story is set in the UK, how does this fit the model of a new world? It does, because Dracula's arrival in London makes it somewhere fresh and ghastly: coffins are deposited across the city, bats and wolves are seen and children are attacked. So their own world has become something else. In the same way that in Chernobyl, the nuclear power plant goes from normal to disastrous. So we could write it like this: 

  1. Jonathan has left his ordinary world
  2. Meets Dracula and wants to defeat him
  3. Fails
  4. In London, meets Van Helsing
  5. Joins the team
  6. Mina has been compromised, all work to spoil the coffins
  7. Kills the three women working with his colleagues
  8. Approach final resting place of Dracula but he's escaped
  9. All resting places are gone so he has no where to hide in London
  10. Travel to Transylvania and defeat him
  11. Find and kill Dracula
  12. End of the curse on Mina

 

However, what if Dracula was the hero?

  1. Dracula lives in his isolated castle
  2. Is like a child, learning about the world
  3. ?
  4. Learns from Jonathan of life in London
  5. Arrives in London
  6. Has to get safe, find a blood donor (Lucy), avoid Van Helsing
  7. Creates his resting places
  8. Loses his three female accomplices
  9. Attacks Lucy
  10. Escaps to Transylvania
  11. Survives trip and is on his way back to castle
  12. Is killed so may be at peace

 

So, I think Dracula demonstrates that the hero's journey is flexible and also opens the possibilty of shifting the story completely to the POC of the thin, tall man himself. With or without a long, white moustache.

 

Chaos Stories

Before reading Dracula, I read The Invisible Man. Spookily, I didn't know either were in the works. Chaos stories are also called null plots in the sense they have no plot. Examples given are Shrek and Forest Gump. The idea behind this term, is that neither have a strong plot but through the strength of their premise, a story can be told.

Having read The Invisible Man, I believe it also fits the chaos story model. There is barely a plot. The Invisible Man appears, runs around causing havoc then dies. It's a great read because the idea is so strong and the action never lets up. Some action movies work in a similar way, if there's enough crash and wallops, we don't miss there not being a good plot.