Monday, September 26, 2011

The Hero's Journey

The Hero’s Journey or Monomyth is a plot device used in both books and Hollywood films. Many steps of the Hero’s Journey can be found in ancient classics such as Hercules. However the literary world didn’t formalize this plot device until 1949 with the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. 

The Hero’s Journey follows a couple of basic steps:
  • The hero is born under some strange circumstances.
  • Sometime during the hero’s life, circumstances will force the Hero to start his   journey in saving the world. He would receive some type of aid in terms of friends and tools.
  • The journey that the hero takes will be froth with peril. The hero eventually must complete the journey alone.
  • The hero returns home bringing with him a new wisdom that would benefit the community.

The classic example of the Hero’s Journey is J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. The first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, begins with the coming of age of Frodo Baggins and the birthday of Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit adventurer. Bilbo leaves Frodo with a special ring, which turns out to be the one ring of Dark Lord Sauron. Gandalf leads Frodo and a group of warriors to Mount Doom to destroy the ring. The Two Towers continues with the trials of the Frodo and his companions as they battle their way to Mordor, the home of Lord Sauron. This book splits the main focus of the plot into two parts: Frodo and his journey to Mount Doom and Aragorn as he battles the forces of evil. The last book, The Return of the King, concludes the journey. Frodo is successful in destroying the ring while Aragorn finishes his own journey as King of Gondor. The books are quite detailed and moving. They make you feel that you’re actually in Middle Earth. While the movies did a great job in depicting the world of Middle Earth, the books will give a more complete picture of the journey of Frodo and the fellowship. The books depict Frodo Baggins as the hero. Through his trials save the world and return to his home, it is a perfect example of the Hero’s Journey. The books also give you a sub journey in the terms of Aragorn. He begins the story as a lonely ranger named Strider. Later it is revealed that he’s the hidden king of Gondor. He begins the second Hero’s Journey of the books trying to claim his throne. 

In cinema, the most often cited movie of the Hero’s Journey is the Star Wars saga. The original episodes contain the classic Hero Journey plot. However George Lucas also goes in the opposite direction where the hero doesn’t always saves the world.  These movies were also published as books with a more complete plot than is feasible in a two- hour movie.   Episode I: The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks introduces Anakin Skywalker.a child from a mysterious birth. He goes on a great journey that leads him to becoming a Jedi and saving the planet Naboo.  Episode II: Attack of the Clones by R.A. Salvatore shows Anakin continuing his Jedi journey. The pressures of the lifestyle of the Jedi and the temptation of family eventually begin his downfall. In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover, Anakin totally succumbs to the dark side in a failed attempt to save his family.  Episode I follows the classic Hero’s Journey. However by Episode III, Anakin goes completely down the path of evil.  The trilogy successfully shows how the Hero’s Journey can become a Villain’s Journey. 

Orson Scott Card’s Sci-fi classic Ender’s Game is another example of the Hero’s Journey. This book is set after an alien invasion nearly wipes out humanity. To survive, man has made an uneasy alliance with other aliens. This gave humanity a chance to fight back at a cost. Children are now bred for war. The principle character is Ender Wiggin. We follow him through his training as he battles the invading alien, politicians, and his own comrades to gain his freedom. This book will grab your attention, and you will want to read the continuing series.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not Your Ordinary Romance

If you like to read romances, but find yourself craving a good book that will really help you escape reality for a little while, you might consider reading a paranormal romance for a love story with a twist! 

For a taste of adventure on the high seas, I recommend Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister.  Main character Amy is a workaholic financial analyst with a teenage daughter named Tara.  When Tara accuses her mother of not knowing how to relax, Amy grudgingly agrees to try out the beta version of a virtual reality game called Buckling Swashes.  Just as lightening strikes the house Amy logs in and wakes up as the pirate Earless Erika in the fascinating, and surprisingly real, world of Buckling Swashes.  Almost immediately Amy meets the sexy avatar of the game’s creator, Corbin.  Not one to be swayed by a pretty face, Amy promptly tells Corbin that his avatar is too-perfect, and when he sheds the disguise she finds that she really likes his real appearance.  However, that doesn’t stop her from drawing on her experience as a member of the fencing team during college to thoroughly beat him in a duel and win his ship!  It’s not all fun and games, though… not long after Amy and Corbin part ways, she discovers that the game is just a little too real when she can’t find a way out!  Fortunately for her, the sexy pirate is all too willing to come to her aid, but as the romance between them heats up they both realize that there are threats facing them inside the game and out…    

If you thought dating in the 21st century was hard, imagine if you were looking for that special someone to spend an eternity with!  In Dead End Dating by Kimberly Raye, Lil Marchette is a 500 year old born vampire with a taste for designer labels and anything pink.  Unlike a “made” vampire, “born” vampires can have children and Lil’s mother would like nothing better than for her daughter to find that special someone to settle down with and make little vampires!  However, Lil isn’t just going to settle for anyone!  She’s a hopeless romantic and won’t settle for less than Mr. Right!  While she’s waiting, Lil avoids working for the family business, Midnight Moe’s (a chain of copy/print stores) by opening up Dead End Dating, a Manhattan-based matchmaking service catering to the supernatural.  Lil’s dream is to use her special skills to help the undead wed, but she’s not against helping humans and other supernaturals, too!  Her first client, Francoise Deville, is a real challenge!  An extremely old and nerdy vampire, Francoise is a gentle soul who just can’t wait to find someone who’s willing to settle down and scrapbook with him.  However, just as she’s getting down to the business of finding Francoise’s eternity mate, in walks Ty Bonner, an extremely hot made vampire who would set her pulse racing, if she had one!  Ty just happens to be a bounty hunter who’s investigating a series of kidnappings.  It turns out the kidnapper preys on single women, so Lil needs to help Ty catch him before anyone else, especially one of her clients, ends up dead! 
Not into virtual reality or vampires?  For those of you who feel especially in-tune with the lunar cycle, I recommend Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn.  Kitty is a late night radio DJ who has a secret.  A strange attack she suffered years ago has not only opened her eyes to the supernatural world, it’s made her a part of it!  After a caller from the other side reaches out to her, Kitty finds herself in a unique position to help people like her who have been thrust into a world they don’t understand.  After receiving encouragement from her boss (who is clueless about her real nature) she decides to start a late night advice show, The Midnight Hour.  However, opening up about her life and problems on the air not only stirs up trouble for Kitty with the leaders of her pack, but it also makes her some new enemies!  Kitty soon realizes that there are some who don’t want her talking, and they’ll do anything to shut her up….

Additional Recommended Reading