Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

More thoughts on The Hero’s Journey- the Ordeal and the Black Moment April 6, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 6:28 pm
Tags: , ,

Um, I’m just thinking as I write here so it may not make sense or be just plain stupid, but it seems to me that the Ordeal is a descent into the dark places of the character’s own psyche, where they become fully aware of their deepest fears and their greatest challenges. To successfully negotiate the Ordeal, the character must be willing to confront their fears, to recognise the shadow within themselves. That cliched but so true phrase- “feel the fear and do it anyway”. If they feel the fear and back out, it’s game over. Fail. There is no reward.

But if they feel the fear and take the risk, things can and will still go wrong. The virgin may decide to go ahead and be intimate with the hero, despite her fears he is only using her, and have an mind-shatteringly wonderful experience. The Reward is only ever temporary. The next morning, she may wake up and find that yes, he is a scheming manipulative bastard who was only using her.

The true Black Moment is when everything the character most fears seems to have become reality, and whatever choice the character makes, it’s going to be terrible for them. The Black Moment is in fact the ultimate temptation, the moment when the character chooses whether to be true to themselves, or to become their shadow self. This must relate to the Ordeal, the deepest fear the character realised there, now come to pass. In the fight on the Death Star, Luke loses a hand, but that doesn’t sear his soul in the same way as the discovery that his vision in the cave was true- he and Vader are of the same essence, Vader is his father. He chooses to risk death rather than become his Shadow. 

So in the Ordeal, the character is asked to be willing to confront their worse fear, in the Resurrection, they do actually confront it and are reborn into the world. The old personality dies in a sense in the Ordeal, but the character isn’t actually reborn into their new purified and strengthened self until the Resurrection. Because they are still in the Special World, and not yet back in the Ordinary World. Got it! I think…

Now how that applies to Romance I’m not quite sure yet. In category romance, diferent lines will put differing emphasis on the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey, some lines more focused on the hero, others on the heroine. There are two separate journeys, that may well be progessing at different rates, but they have to end up at the same place for the HEA. And running away from the Black Moment isn’t the answer. The heroine  or hero has to grow and mature, face and integrate their shadow self, and at the same time win the respect of the other (or in the case of the heroine dealing with the more Alpha hero, force him to respect her!). I think I am seeing why my Instant Seduction entry was rejected- the heroine ran away from her Black Moment.  The  character has to react to their ultimate trial in a way that proves them worthy of a real love, showing them to be a person of true integrity and courage. Luke had only two choices- join Vader or risk death. Hopefully our heroines have  a few more options!

A romance is not just a love story, it is a story of two human being’s emotional and personal growth. Jennifer Crusie’s definition of a Romance ties in well here.  “The medieval definition of a romance always involved a quest, and I think the modern romance does, too: the heroine’s quest for self-actualization. Until a woman finds out who she is and what she needs from life, she can’t really connect to another person as an equal. So the best romance novels always show a woman coming to her strength and fullness as a human being, and part of the reward for the fulfillment of that quest is a strong, equal life partner. “

And the way we come to that strength and fullness of self is through trial, through ordeal, through the darkness. Jung said “When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness. We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness.”

I’m just realising there was another issue that weakened my IS story, one that I think is common for newer romance writers. I didn’t link the stages of Ordeal and Black Moment together, I threw in a new problem to create the Black Moment. The problems didn’t really come organically enough from who the characters were, either, they did partially, but they were also a bit manufactured. I think that’s what’s known as a plot device, isn’t it?

Of course, I had heard of the Hero’s Journey, but hadn’t really thought about it back then, especially applied to Romance. I didn’t know what a black moment was either. I just knew there had to be a couple of places where it looks like the relationship has no chance! It’s exciting to see how far I’ve come in a year. Now, to just apply this to some writing…


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