Thursday, October 10, 2013

This is a Call

Of course I have to name this post after one of my favorite Foo Fighters songs. Our Ramble topic for this month is the Hero’s Journey; specifically, the first stage of the Hero’s Journey, "Departure", which is comprised of five steps;

1. The Call to Adventure
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Supernatural Aid
4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
5. The Belly of the Whale

For my part I will be discussing The Call to Adventure. To read more about the other four steps of this stage, see the other entries over at The Writers Ramble.

So, how exactly is one “called” to adventure? Is it a physical summoning that lures us out, such as a siren’s song, or perhaps the call of nature? Or is it more metaphysical, like a spiritual prompting or emotional drive?

Honestly, it can be any or all of these. The call to adventure is whatever draws us from our comfort zone and drives us to make a difference either in our own life or in the lives of those around us. In real life, it can be the desire to join the military and embark on worldwide experiences, or it can be a prompting from God to undertake a mission to spread His word. Perhaps it’s merely the desire to find love and hold on to it with both hands.

In fiction, it can be all of these and so much more. Like Wendy, following Peter Pan to Neverland in search of a “grand adventure”. Or Indiana Jones deciphering the clues that lead him to the Ark of the Covenant. Even Ray Kinsella’s urge to build a ballpark in the middle of a cornfield. These characters felt the call, and answered it willingly, even eagerly.

But sometimes our hero may be a little—or a lot—more resistant to the call. Luke Skywalker, Bilbo Baggins, Mrs. Frisby. These are the characters who find themselves drawn into the adventure whether they want to go or not. And oftentimes these are the heroes we relate to the most. Why? Because, like them, we are reluctant to seek adventure.

Think about it, if we truly sought to answer our own Call to Adventure, we would. We would join the military, backpack across Europe, rob a liquor store, or climb Mt. Everest. Yes, there are a lot of people who do these things, but there are even more of us who don’t. We’re content to sit at home and experience adventure vicariously through the lives of the characters we read about or watch on the screen. Yet we still dream about these things, these adventures. And we imagine that, if someone or something forced us into action, then we could be the hero.

So when Jack Ryan is sent out to help hunt the Red October, even though he’s just an analyst; or when Jen embarks to find the shard of the Dark Crystal even though he knows the Skeksis will try to kill him; or when Dotty joins the Rockford Peaches so that her kid sister will be allowed to play; we cheer them on. We understand their reluctance, we don’t want to leave the comfort of our homes either, but we also know, as they do, that they must go. And we love them for it. Why? Because they don’t answer the call for greed, or power, or excitement. They do it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s that quiet nobility, and humility, that endears them so strongly to our hearts.

So the next time you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, take a long look at your characters. Find that nobility within them, and then send them out to save the world. Not because they want to; but because they have to.

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