Monday, August 18, 2014

The Hero's Journey

As I sit here in the posh surroundings of the United Gold Club in Chicago O'Hare airport, I am reminded of the Hero's journey. It's not that my journey is particularly arduous, though I did get bumped from my original flight and now find myself with a four hour lay over in Chicago. Still, I did stumble onto a day pass into the Gold Club, so it's not like I am sleeping four deep on the main concourse. Yet, there is a gentleman sprawled out on the couch (yes, they even have couches) near where I sit who is in more dire straights than me.

He's from Australia, you see. A long way from home and stranded here in Chicago. Apparently, his flight was cancelled last night. He was put up in a hotel "...out in the 'burbs somewhere." (which was very thoughtful of the airline to do so), but he is now on standby for the rest of his trip. Can you imagine? 15 or more hours from home and stuck on standby. The poor guy has left now to try his luck at another flight, but you just begin to imagine how his trip is going to go from here. It may not be the Iliad, but it does put one in mind of such things.

I've made a study of the Hero's journey, which I recommend for all genres as the basic principals are applicable to all. Joseph Campbell wrote volumes on the subject and I have read most of them. This particular theme is primal in nature. The earliest known written story is that of Gilgamesh, which is a tale of a Hero's quest for immortality. This basic theme speaks to that part of us that has come up through time immoral. The struggle from our primitive beginnings to our "modern" times (No matter which side of Evolution you fall on, this is still true.) is innate in us all. Thus, stories that detail such travails - from Gilgamesh to Moby Dick  to the Mistborn trilogy -  speak to us all.

In the end, we struggle. As writers, we imbue that conflict (whatever it may be) into our stories. We cheer for those that prevail against the odds and morn the loss of those that do not. The Aussie is back to his couch, having lost his bid for a chance to fly these shiny confines. What will his story be?


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