So we’ve spent a good deal of time exploring the extraordinary world, learned some very important lessons from its denizens, and made new friends and new enemies alike. It’s been a lot of fun, but now it’s time to up the ante. Buckle up, readers, we’re about to make our Approach!
The Approach stage is shorthand for Joseph Campbell’s Approach to the Inmost Cave, usually the lair of the bad guy, the dragon’s cave, or some other den of deadly things in old mythology. This is where the journey starts to get more difficult, the trials of the previous stage paling in comparison to the challenges ahead. The Hero zeroes in on the source of the main conflict and, much like the preparation involved in Crossing the Threshold, prepares for the story’s central crisis event. In fact, this stage is often considered a second threshold in the story, complete with its own Threshold Guardian. If the Hero has paid attention to the special rules of this new world, this encounter should be the first time he puts his newly acquired knowledge to the test.
It’s very likely that your Hero doesn’t expect to return from the final confrontation. This is appropriate – death and resurrection are, after all, an integral part of the great myths, and this plays directly into the Resurrection stage of the Hero’s Journey. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. A lot of high stakes stories involve final battles between the main character and the villain of the piece, and only one is expected to walk away. Settling his affairs before the big fight is something that the Hero should certainly take care of at this point of the Journey. Likewise, in stories where there’s an emotional conflict instead of a physical one, the Hero may have to come to terms with some painful truth before moving toward the climax of the story. The Inmost Cave in that instance may be the depths of his own soul as he deals with some hard truths. Any way you slice it, the Approach is where the protagonist mentally, physically and emotionally suits up for the big showdown.
Let’s check back in with Rob to see how this stage plays out in his own Hero’s Journey. He’s been working at the office for a while now, learning new skills in administration and organization, but he hasn’t been following his dream of being a writer at all. Betty changes that by adding a new layer to his life, challenging him to write short stories about inanimate objects to get the creative juices flowing. At first baffled by the notion of adding writing to what he considers an already full life, he nonetheless takes up the challenge and makes the time to hammer out one short story after another. It soon becomes apparent that each one he completes builds on the last to develop a common thread linking them together, which makes writing the next story easier as an overarching mythology is born. Good thing, too – he discovers that National Novel Writing Month is fast approaching, its siren’s call irresistible to Rob now that his muse is getting warmed up. 50,000 words is a hefty challenge to someone who has never written a novel before, but with his new array of time management skills and creative direction, it’s a battle he’s never been more prepared to fight.
Our Journey is more than halfway over, but the best is yet to come. Though we’re not yet to the climax of our tale, we’re definitely entering crisis mode and fast approaching the big finish. The Hero’s Journey kicks into high gear next time as we launch right into the Ordeal!