Most of us get the three act structure for fiction. A bland start, the status quo is presented, and then somewhere within the next few pages “it” goes down. Some people like to use Joseph Campbell’s mono-myth structure from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. Right down to the most discrete detail. Even the part about rejecting the call, or the departure ordeal. I’m with Neil Gaiman, if I do it I want it to be on accident. I never finished Campbell’s treatise, and I can say with honesty I only remember a few sections. I’m sure it is true, in fiction and life. Like I said, I don’t want to know, it would only screw stuff up.
So I got a character, and he might be good, but he definitely does some bad. The plot line, or more of a timeline, goes something like this:
1. Present day, U.S., old man has a heart attack after watching the morning news (there was a story about something he knows a bit more about.
2. Flashback, and the actual story: He is a young man In New Orleans, frustrated.
3. Decides to leave and abandons his position on the merchant ship.
4. Buys a train ticket to Atlanta, on the way there he falls asleep and remembers the war (Korea)
5. In Atlanta he makes his way to the shanty area he used to live in with the other poor whites. Finds his father is deceased and buried.
6. Does something bad to somebody
7. Leaves town the next morning, heading to Augusta to hook up with his war buddy.
8. Makes it to Augusta and his friend has picked him up
What elements from that Hero with a Thousand Faces might be in there? Well he does get a calling, only he doesn’t know it, it is not known by anyone yet. It is to leave, and travel, and to face something. He did not need to do number 6, but it does add to the character development. He is violent, and often reactionary. Get that in early. His friend is more tempered, but his capacity for evil is immense. I have not gone into that yet. For now they are friends, but in a chapter or two they will be divided and the line between protagonist and antagonist will become clear. I’m not sure if I should go the “Judas” route or somewhere else. The plot line makes it open.
So if you are stuck, Campbell’s piece on the hero journey is online, and there are summaries of it as well. Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and The DaVinci Code all followed it, to the point of being cliche. If you choose to follow it try to be like Charles Frasier (Cold Mountain), and hide it deep within the prose.
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