A bestselling author I know, Bob Dugoni, suggested in one of his classes, that the most influential book on writing, for him, is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers (now in its 3rd edition). Within its 400 pages is everything you need to know about story structure, character development, character interaction, plot, and even denouement. Yeah sure, and I’m from home office and here to help.
I’m in the crazy and confusing misty fog of trying to concurrently write three books. I would use the analogy of trying to date three women at the same time but my wife would kill me. But you get my drift. The first is a sequel to Elk River set ten years later, the next (25,000 words done) is the next episode in the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles, and the last is a huge novel (in breath of scope, scale, and characters). As I said, trying to date three women.
Focus, focus, focus; it’s so easy to be distracted with so many stories bouncing around in your head. Which is the most interesting, which one do I want to be with for the next year or two? Can I cheat on one, will the others find out? Focus, focus. And that’s where Mr. Vogler’s dating service and match making skills come into play. Using his ideas on story structure (he’d actually say they are centuries old, he just explains them better than most), I was able to initially sketch out the overall storyline and put characters in their proper place relative to each other. It was easier to set the time frames and scope. In fact, within a couple of hours, a love affair started.
The Writer’s Journey is not a ‘how-to book’. It is more of a ‘here’s the possibilities book.’ Bob was correct in his assessment of its value; it can set you on the right road. Every trip has a start and most have a destination. It’s best if you know where you’re going. Vogler breaks the book into two parts; Book One: Mapping the Journey is about characters and the parts they play. Basically they are archetypes, but they often meld into each other and can change. The basic players are:
- Mentor: Wise Old Man or Woman
- Threshold Guardian
In Book Two he explains the stages of the journey. It's this construct that confuses authors. We don't know what comes first, second, or when does it become the road taken? The help found in these 12 steps is immeasurable:
- Ordinary World
- Call to Adventure
- Refusal of the Call
- Meeting the Mentor
- Crossing the Threshold
- Test, Allies, Enemies
- Approach to the Inmost Cave
- The Ordeal
- The Road Back
- The Resurrection
- Return with the Elixir
Simple aren’t they. As I said, Vogler provides a map but you have to provide the towns and villages, you have to set the scenery, you have to put names on the streets. But the map is there, I strongly recommend it.