Onto the second ‘step’ of the anatomy of plot– what Joseph Campbell called ‘the call to adventure’.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
- The Ordinary World
- Call to Adventure
- Refusal of the Call
- Meeting the Mentor
- Crossing the First Threshold
- Tests, Allies, and Enemies
- The Supreme Ordeal
- The Road Back
- Return with the ‘Elixir’
Once we have a good feel for the character, the character’s circumstances, the way the world works, it’s time to break it a little.
Cue the eccentric billionaire with a suicide mission to the man with the brain tumor: “Live like a king! Die like a man! You’re on your way out anyway. You know that!”
Cue the cliche reveal of ‘The Chosen One’. Cue the call to explore the south pole– bad living, bad pay, bad food, horrid weather, honor and glory on return. Cue the messenger with news of unknown connections to royal blood. The twins’ dream that calls them to vigilantism. We know these forms. The rise of something new and looming on the horizon, the approach of something that cracks open the life the characters previously had known.
This can be the sudden crash of something new into a character’s life. Or perhaps it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. The run-down sister whose abusive boyfriend has hit her one too many times, for instance. Or maybe it’s even a temptation, or an escape from the ordinary world, a flight from life as it’s previously known.
The difference, though, between “The Ordinary World” and “The Call to Adventure” isn’t the magnitude of the event, by any means. The Ordinary World certainly builds events up, provides motive and setting, leading on to the Call in one way or the other, whether the Call unexpectedly smacks the character in the face or appears well in the distance. The trick to identifying the Call is simply the effect on the protagonist, a turning point that clearly stands out from the rest.
I think The Call to Adventure is probably one of the more obvious points of The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, so I’ll leave my thoughts there. The next point is something that I’ve had to study more thoroughly, because at first glance, it’s one I didn’t like: The Refusal of the Call.