The Hero’s Journey

I’ve just realized something: I’m too slavish to the “Hero’s Journey” formula.

That isn’t the case with my writing in this life (nor, really, in the previous one).

My first (written) novel had many of the elements, but its protagonist was hapless and ultimately fails in his objectives, and in the sequel he is reduced to a supporting character, while the apparent protagonist has his hero’s journey interrupted by the revelation that the journey isn’t what it seems by another protagonist with even more control over the situation.  The antagonist isn’t even defeated until the Denouement (with only the false antagonist meeting a dramatic end at the story’s climax).  Then when everything seems resolved, something else weird happens.

In my second book (first one I published), the characters sort of have events happen to them.  They’re ordinary characters running from a brutal dictator (then later, the fragments of his imploded regime) and pretty much relying on unusual amounts of dumb luck, good timing, and instinct to stay alive.  The protagonist and the antagonist never meet; their only contact is through functionaries and is very hands-off.  The sequel employs somewhat more of a hero’s journey but even that is somewhat stood on its end by a rather jarring change of pace toward the end.

So, as one who has changed up and at times even ignored the tropes of the Hero’s Journey while still writing compelling action stories, I should be capable of living my life the same way, right?

Except I find that often, I try to live that Hero’s Journey by hoping that one day, my “specialness” will overcome something tremendous and I will save the world just by showing up.  And when I look at not only this life but the lives I’ve led before, nearly everything I’ve ever done was part of some bid to be a hero.

For Longespee, it was training myself to be the best warrior and statesman I could be so that I could defeat any adversary; I ended up being a henchman to a real villain for a good portion of my life in spite of myself.

For John, it was running into the line of fire as soon as the call to adventure sounded; I never got past the Second Threshold.

And for Phil, if I was indeed him, I tried to save many a damsel in distress, never once thinking about the hole I was digging for myself by taking on others’ problems while ignoring my own; that hole was about six feet deep.

That’s to say nothing of the numerous other lives I lived, the ones remembered in fragments that tell of someone always on the move, dynamic, making full use of Second Chances but ultimately, not someone who changed the world all that much.  It seems in just about every one of them I was intensely purposeful, but my impact on the world fell far short of what I had intended.

So what am I doing now?  Longing to be the Chosen One who can save the world because I have insight that others don’t.  I’m still at it, aren’t I?  More than eight hundred years of this and I haven’t learned a single damned thing about actually living!

I am an idiot and always have been.

(Also, if any members of the US intelligence community are concerned about the possible jihadist website I found by accident while failing to find a cute graphic to link to for the phrase “chosen one,” I’m not a terrorist.  Please don’t drone me!)


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