Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Hero's Journey - Approach

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!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Everyday Divinities Project - The Copier

The Copier - by R. B. LeMoyne
© July 23, 2010 *

“Why won’t this thing print for me?!”

Aaron stood over the small office copier, glaring down at the offending piece of technology. A page had jammed in the feeder again, halting his printing job for the fifth time today. A task that should have taken only a handful of seconds had now stretched into long minutes, and his boss was waiting for the document in the other room.

“Damn copier! Give me my friggin’ document!” he growled, jabbing the “Stop/Clear” button viciously, over and over.

“Hey! Just what do you think you’re doing?” Cari demanded, her tone heavy with accusation as she turned in her chair to watch her frustrated coworker.

His annoyance growing, Aaron gestured violently to his boxy nemesis. “The damn copier won’t print for me! I’ve been trying to get this report copied for the boss since I got in this morning, and it keeps jamming on me, every single friggin’ time. Stupid piece of outdated…” A snarl of aggravation choked off his words as he restrained himself from slamming his fists down on the copier.

“See, that’s your problem right there. You need to treat her with more respect than that, or she won’t print for you.”

Aaron turned to her, his anger ebbing momentarily as a dubious expression crossed his face. “Her? She? What?”

Cari nodded and continued, “Yeah, she likes to be treated nicely. Give her a little love, talk to her a bit, and your problems will be over. I promise.” Her advice given, she turned back to her desk to continue working on her computer.

Aaron sighed and tugged his page free from the copier, neatly arranging the stack of papers in the feeder once again. “Talk to her,” he muttered under his breath. “Riiiight. As if this thing was one of the office assistants or something. Craziest thing I’ve ever heard...”

Once the stack was ready to be printed again, he leaned against the copier and growled, “Okay, you oversized paperweight. You’re going to print this for me, or I’m going to toss you out the window. Got it?” He hit the “Start” button and stepped back with satisfaction as the first few pages copied without a hitch. When the fourth page jammed in the copier, the image of carrying through with his spoken promise rode through his mind on a wave of hate.

Cari sighed as she stood and walked over to the copier. “You’re not doing it right. Step aside and watch a pro at work.” Aaron backed away and gestured widely for her to step up and give it a try.

In a low, sweet voice, Cari cooed, “It’s all right, baby. Cari’s here to take care of you.” She loaded the documents into the top feeder tray and continued, with a sidelong glance at Aaron, “Don’t mind him. He just doesn’t know thing one on how to treat you right.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Aaron muttered in disbelief, staring at the bizarre and rather one-sided conversation before him.

“See, this is why she won’t print for you,” Cari said in response to his comment. “It’s that kind of attitude that turns her off.”

“And I suppose it’ll print for you instead of me?”

Cari tapped the “Start” button and smiled smugly at him as the copier completed its printing job without a hitch. Aaron stared at the copier, blinked incredulously, then frowned at her. “That was luck,” he said sharply, snatching the original document and its copy from the machine before taking both sets of documents in to his boss.

Later that day, Aaron approached the copier with another stack of documents to copy for his boss. He stepped up to the machine cautiously, as if he were afraid it would snap at him.

This is beyond silly, Aaron chided himself with a frown. It’s not a she, it doesn’t have feelings, and it doesn’t need to be pampered like a newborn baby. It’s a damn copy machine. You just need to check the feeder tray to make sure it doesn’t jam again.

After checking the tray three times to make sure the edges of the document were perfectly aligned and lightly situated in the feeder tray, he hit the “Start” button to begin the printing job. He glanced over to where Cari was watching him and gave her a smug smile of his own… a smile that dropped quickly when a page jammed in the copier. Cari snorted in amusement as Aaron pulled the jammed paper free, cursing all the while at the “fickle piece of outdated machinery.” He shot a glare at her, his face flushed in anger.

“Somehow, this is all your fault,” he said balefully. “I’m not sure how, exactly, but it is, I know it.”

Cari smirked at him and replied, “I’m telling you, it’s all in your approach. You have to treat her like you’d treat any office employee. She’s as overworked as the rest of us, and she doesn’t like having a huge workload thrown at her like that. You have to be nice to her, talk to her, let her know you care. She’ll appreciate that, trust me. Once you acknowledge her and her hard work, your own work will go that much smoother.”

She pushed him aside and leaned in close to the copier, caressing the machine’s hard plastic shell gently. “There, there, baby. Cari’s back,” she said soothingly. “Everything’s okay, you just need to print this one little stack for him and he’ll leave you alone.”

“Hey, now-“ Aaron began to protest, but Cari cut him off with a shush. She fixed the papers in the tray, tapped the “Start” button, and left her bewildered coworker to collect his perfectly copied document.

Aaron glanced around, checking to make sure that Cari had already gone home before stepping up to the printer again. It was the end of the day, and as he predicted, his boss had handed him a stack of documents that he wanted copied just before clocking out. Figures that the world would conspire to keep me at the office the day I plan to get together with friends after work.

He eyed the copier warily, then glanced around again to make sure no one was watching. He straightened the documents and placed them with care in the feeder tray, then said aloud, “Alright, I know we got off on the wrong foot. I was… inconsiderate… and I apologize.” With a light caress of the keypad, he added, “Right now, I really need to get this copied so I can leave work on time, so I’ll make you a deal. You get this printed quickly and without a hitch, and I’ll make sure you’re fully stocked with fresh paper first thing tomorrow morning. Do we have a deal?”

Inwardly hoping that he wasn’t making a fool of himself for nothing, Aaron pressed the “Start” button. The copier whirred to life and began printing one page, then two, then three. As the feeder grabbed the fourth page, he was sure that the machine would jam on his document yet again… but was then pleasantly surprised when it accepted the fifth and sixth page without pause. He stood in awe as the copier finished with the rest of his document seconds later. A quick check of the copy confirmed that every page printed flawlessly.

At a loss for words, he grabbed the original document and ran before something else could make the day any stranger than it already was.

Within the spiritual domain of the office copier, Okuko the copy goddess signed the last of the paperwork that symbolized another successful copy. A relieved sigh passed between her tiny lips, her white luminescent form relaxing in her charcoal gray office chair. Today was another busy day full of important documents. She gave a silent thanks to Cari, who always seemed to make the day go by that much faster with her kind words and attention. They were both expected to do so much work for so little reward, and sometimes it grated on her far more than she’d admit. Still, it was comforting to have someone in the office that understood and appreciated the hard work she performed on a daily basis.

Okuko smiled as she filed away her paperwork and considered giving Aaron a divine blessing should he follow through with his promise. Though he didn’t fully believe in her yet, he was on the path of acceptance. Tonight’s small demonstration would make that transition from skeptic to believer a little easier, but as always, it would take time. With any luck, Cari would help things along on her end.

She looked forward to her fresh paper tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Update Coming "Soon"

The title for this post is an inside joke that most fans of video game companies like Blizzard and Valve will get pretty quickly. The rest of you will just have to wait and see to get the joke, or Google "Valve Time" or "Blizzard Soon" to get the oft-humorous explanation. For now, let's get down to it.

My sincerest apologies for the lack of meaty updates these past few weeks. I've been trying to balance two jobs and a house guest from out of town, all while writing my trilogy. I can tell you that I have been working on the next leg of the Hero's Journey, Approach, but I can't tell you when it'll be posted. Maybe tomorrow, maybe later in the week. Maybe today, if the clouds part and the choir sings, heralding a miracle of time dilation that would make it all possible.

I've been receiving inquiries lately about the Hero's Journey, Joseph Campbell, and the mythic structure of story, which has me thrilled. It's good to see such interest in what many believe to be the essential building blocks of narrative, having survived from ancient mythology to become an integral part of modern storytelling. In response, I've added links just to the right of this post, below The Everyday Divinities Project, that will take you directly to each post I've made regarding the stages of the Journey. As it's been a sizable amount of time since the last Hero's Journey post (almost a month?!) this will help you brush up on the Journey for the next exciting installment.

Keep checking the blog for future updates!

Monday, July 12, 2010


"It took me a long, hard five years to complete The Philosopher's Stone. The reason so much time slipped by was because, from that very first idea, I envisaged a series of seven books - each one charting a year of Harry's life whilst he is a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And I wanted to fully sketch the plots of all the stories and get the essential characteristics of my principal characters before I actually started writing the books in detail."
J.K. Rowling, Author, Harry Potter series

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hidden World vs. Alternate Reality

I love reading modern fantasy stories! The Dresden Files, the Harry Potter series, even the Anita Blake books offer some great escapism by allowing readers to explore our world in a new light. It's no surprise, then, that my trilogy is following in their speculative footsteps.

Hidden worlds like the ones that Harrys Dresden and Potter live in show the dangers in balancing the obligations of a secret supernatural society with those of the normal world, and offer some great tension when one world bleeds into the other. Alternate realities like the one that Anita Blake lives in, however, give us a glimpse of what the world would be like if the hidden world wasn't so hidden anymore, and the new issues that arise for the people who live in that world.

Both types of stories make for great settings. Which one is your favorite, and why?

Friday, July 2, 2010


"Here's the secret of how to get published: keep going. There is an enormous weedout factor for wannabe writers. The good news is that you aren't competing with every published schmoe out there. You're only up against the rest of the wannabes, and it's like the old axiom about being chased by a grizzly bear. You don't have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you. Keep trying when the guy next to you quits in disgust. Keep writing when the girl next to you sobs and throws her manuscripts into the fire. Keep conducting yourself like a professional, and you'll get someone to believe that you are one. If you're lucky, maybe even yourself."
Jim Butcher, Author, The Dresden Files