Writing the Hero’s Journey

amazon is ready for battle carnival-787071_640At a recent conference for fantasy writers, I attended a couple of panels on the subject of the quest. They reminded me that a quest is also a “hero’s journey” – a story structure used in myths and legends around the world, and explained by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The structure is used extensively in science fiction and fantasy – Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are prime examples – but it shows up in lots of other types of stories, too. Any time a protagonist goes out to find something and comes back wiser for it (or not), you’re seeing a hero’s journey. Continue reading “Writing the Hero’s Journey”

Do You Write With a Formula?

writing formula The idea of formulas in writing always makes my nose wrinkle. Because to me, formula means repetition…and repetition in writing could very well lead to boredom. Have you ever had that? Followed an author you’ve loved for years only to find that by their tenth or fifteenth book you can finish it for them, because you already know how they roll and what they’re going to do with their characters?

That always frustrates me, and as a writer I have tried my very best not to fall into this trap. That’s partly why I write in a variety of genres. I never want to be thought of as the author who regurgitates the same old stuff.

But the truth is…there are formulas in writing and whether we like that fact or not, we must accept it, because the right formula can make for a brilliant book, just like the wrong formula can make for pages of drivel.

So, what is the right formula? Continue reading “Do You Write With a Formula?”

Plot-Driven vs. Character-Driven Stories

plot-driven explosionI would guess that most readers don’t really want to analyze the stories they read; they just want to sink into them and enjoy them. I don’t know anyone who deliberately chooses a book based on whether it’s a plot-based story or a character-based story. So what’s the difference and why does it matter? Continue reading “Plot-Driven vs. Character-Driven Stories”

Storytellers, All

theatre facesOver Christmas, my husband and I were indulging in one of our more recent traditions, which is watching the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s DVD The Ghosts of Christmas Eve. If you’re not familiar with TSO, they’re a bit of a brain-stretcher. Their music is essentially heavy metal, but they are backed by a full symphonic orchestra. They are not the kind of band I would normally gravitate toward, but their DVD production was an instant hit with both of us.

In any event, one of their guest singers was singing a song (not your traditional Christmas carol) and I was listening to the words and following the story of the song and began to think about how we—all of us humans—are storytellers. As a writer, of course, I can easily say I am a storyteller. My husband is an actor, and I’ve realized that he, too, is a storyteller, albeit in a different way. No one can deny the popularity of books, TV and film, and all of those things tell stories. Our music and songs do as well, as do pictures, jokes, anecdotes, even normal conversation. When you think about it, is there any medium we use to communicate that does not tell stories? Continue reading “Storytellers, All”