Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Calls to Adventure

Road Through a Winter Landscape--1931 Maybe your protagonist is an international spy. His days are rarely boring since he’s always hopping a plane to a dangerous spot on the other side of the world.

Or not.

For most of us? Our protagonists are fairly ordinary people—like we are. But something extraordinary happens to them, pulling them out of their routine.

The moment when the story really starts has been called the “Call to Adventure” in the hero’s journey, as detailed by author Joseph Campbell.

In my books? My characters are just minding their own business when they discover a dead body.

There are many other calls that form the genesis of stories.


Are confronted with a challenge—he must go on a dangerous trek to destroy an evil ring in a fiery volcano.

Are put in an extraordinary situation. This could be a plane crash, a sinking ship, a devastating natural disaster or a devastating manmade disaster (war, terrorism, etc.) A group of British schoolboys try to survive on an island after their plane is shot down during World War II. Or...a girl discovers a magical wardrobe is the gateway to another world.

Are asked for help. A Harvard professor gets an emergency phone call in the middle of the night. The curator of the Louvre has been murdered. Can he help solve a mysterious cipher?

Are on a quest for a treasure. Can Charlie find the golden ticket? Can he survive the tour of the factory to obtain a greater prize?

Meet their soul mate…the call of their heart. But the journey to a relationship is a rocky one. Twilight, anyone?

Realize their dream—and follow it. A girl realizes she wants nothing more than to return home. She embarks on a remarkable journey, encountering dangerous obstacles along the way.

The protagonist makes a decision—do they answer this call? Are they reluctant to accept? Are they dutiful, eager, terrified? Their reactions to the call help introduce the reader to the character.

Calls to Adventure usually come fairly early in a book. As a reader, I like knowing what direction the story is heading in—the sooner, the better.

Has your protagonist heard a call? How did he or she answer it?