First I’d like to say “thank you” to everyone who has contacted me through various online outlets in support of this project.
For those of you familiar with the Six Stage Plot Structure, you might wonder why I chose to focus on the Identity and Essence of the Hero first. A recent, and extremely humorous, brush with my own Identity prompted this exploration of the Six Stage Plot Structure. Over the course of this project, I will look at the Hero’s Outer Journey as well as the Hero’s Inner Journey. Because I am a very character driven writer, from my perspective both Journeys are driven from the hero’s struggle to move away from his Identity, or false self, in order to live in his Essence, or truth, and thus lead a fulfilling life.
Keep in mind the following: Identity = False Self / Essence = Truth
A hero’s identity is derived from a wound, or an unhealed source of pain from the past, often something experienced during adolescence. From this wound, we form beliefs on how the world works. Beliefs that grow from wounds are never accurate, but they are always logical to the hero. In The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, when Katniss’ father unexpectedly dies, her mother retreats into her own grief leaving Katniss with the enormous responsibility of keeping her family from starving to death. From here, Katniss forms the belief that if she grows to care for anyone, she will then become responsible for their survival. At the beginning of her journey we see an emotionally isolated hero only capable of caring for her sister, and unable to accept kindness from anyone for fear that she will grow to care for them, and in turn, become responsible for them.
What is a Hero’s Identity?
Keep in mind that we are talking about the journey from living in fear to living in courage. A hero’s Identity is the emotional armor worn to protect the hero from getting hurt. In Katniss’ world safety = emotional isolation. The armor she wears is the false belief that if she does not get close to others, she will survive. It is only when she allows herself to care for others that she starts to live fully in her courage, or her essence. Thistranslates to her success and survival.
In my current Young Adult Novel, Forbidden Signs, my hero, Terra, is continually placed in leadership roles that she does not want. In addition, she has done nothing to actively achieve these positions. With each honor, she loses whom or what she loves the most. As a result, Terra believes that by refusing the role of leader her world, that she thinks is safe, will not change. Only when she embraces the natural leader within will she find fulfillment and reach her goal in the story.
Because we are not fictional characters, we might have more than one wound or identity. My wounds from grade school and high school formed my Identity, which is a lack of self-worth or confidence. Because of this lack of self-confidence, I have shielded myself from exposure. If I didn’t take chances in life, I couldn’t fail. As a writer, I wrote for years in secret, cloaked in my identity, wrapped in self-doubt. Even after I joined writing groups and began to pursue my dream in earnest, I kept this part of my life a secret from anyone outside my immediate sphere. The very first question people ask once you expose yourself as a writer is “what have you published?” While we are not fictional characters, we are all on a journey, regardless of our end goal. The fact that I am currently unpublished does not chage the fact that I am a writer. My goals for my life as a mother and wife differ from those of my life as a writer. Obviously the visible goal of my Outer Writer’s Journey (more on that next week!) is publication, preferably a multi-book deal with an option for a film. If you’re going to dream, dream big!
In writing about my journey, this is me taking a step towards living in my courage, or my essence, as a writer.