The Film Makers Blog - Story - Chapter 2: Hero's Journey
by, 04-26-2010 at 12:19 AM (3281 Views)
Last week we talked about the basics of story, what was the essentials. We covered the three act structure, how stories have a beginning middle and end, and how to create conflict. We now jump a little deeper into the ocean that is story to hopefully come back up with sunken gold.
A Long Long Time Ago
Men have been telling stories since creation. Just take a look through history book, there had been stories in every civilization known to men. Early history stories came often in the form of mythologies. These mythologies would later become the basis of story structure for today.
In fact, throughout history, certain patterns, forms and archetypes started to be shown as more popular. Soon structure came to story. People would breka them up by dividing them by acts. The printing press would create a world where books become more popular. Stories would now be told on paper.
Through out history, common story telling techniques would be carried on. There would be heroes. There would be villains. There was conflict between them. Whether it was a warrior who killed great and marvelous creatures or the boy who would learn how to be a man, story would remain the same throughout the ages.
The 12 Step Program
Recently, a screenwriter and an expert on mythology went back and analyzed stories through out history and came up with the "Heroe's Journey". They came up with twelve steps that could be applied to almost any mythological story of old.
This became huge in Hollywood and now most writing is based off of these. If you take a class on screenwriting you will hear about these. Major blockbusters are formed with these in mind.
These steps are not concrete ablsoute laws of story but usually can be fitted onto most stories. They have become very popular with films especially. The steps are as follows, and to help illustrate such steps I will be using Lord of the Rings:
1. Ordinary World - Our hero's "normal area". This is where the hero starts out. This is Hobbiton, where Frodo spends his day doing his normal routines.
2. Call to Adventure - The hero is presented with a challenge or a quest. Frodo is given the ring.
3. Refusal of the Call - The hero doesn't take up the challenge or quest. Frodo doesn't do anything with the ring he is given, he hides it away not wanting to have to deal with any adventures.
4. Meeting with the Mentor - The hero now meets a character who helps guide him. The character helps show the hero what he must do and why he must do it. Gandalf comes back and tells Frodo to leave Hobbiton, Frodo leaves and goes to meet him at the Inn.
5. Crossing the first Threshold - this is when the hero leaves the ordinary world and enters what is called the "special world" where the quest is to take place. Frodo comes to the edge of Hobbiton, He takes a bold step and crosses over into an unknown world he has never experienced before.
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies - The hero must proceed through the special world and overcome it's new obstacles, this is also when the hero will make allies while also dealing with various Enemies. Frodo now must make the long journey to Mordor. On the way he makes allies in the fellowship and many others along the way. He also has to deal with the constant threat of orcs and other evil creatures who are trying to stop him.
7. Approaching the Cave - The hero approaches the cave that holds what he has been seeking. Often times the hero will have had a setback and has to figure out a different way to accomplish his task. Frodo makes it to the black gates to find them closed, Golem convinces him to use a secret path to enter Mordor.
8. Ordeal - This is when the hero is faced with a life or death situation. Frodo makes it through the cave but is then stung by the spider.
9. Reward - The hero has faced death and has overcome it. Frodo survives the sting and thanks to Sam is now set out to destroy the ring.
10. The Road Back - The hero now has to recommit to his original task so that he may be able to return. Frodo and Sam sneak out of the tower and head towers Mount Doom
11. Ressurrection Hero - The hero now faces death again and must use all that he has learned to achieve his quest. Frodo has made it to Mount Doom and must overcome the ring and Golem so that he can destroy it.
12. Return with the Elixir - The hero has achieved his quest and returns home or stays in the special world. Frodo destroys the ring (well kind of) and Mordor is defeated. The eagles come and pick them up and everything is good again.
Remembering our three act structure, it would break down to where steps 1-5 are the first act, 6-7 the second act, and 8-12 the third act. Remember though that a lot happens in step 6 because your second act should be as long or longer as the first and the third combined.
Now again I say it, these steps are not rules, more like guidelines. They can help give someone a structure to build upon. The uncanny thing about them is, if you take a movie and break it down, you will see that more times than not, most if not all the steps are present. Now not every story includes all twelve steps and some are not in that order. Some movies chuck them out the window. It is up to you on how you will use them.
So I Connected Socket A to Socket B, Now What?
So how do these apply to LBP? Well first off, not every level should have these. These are for the story driven. Also, not all of these steps will really apply to your series. Step three for example doesn't really fit and step two and four will probably be combined as it is usually the same character that gives the quest is also the person who advises how to accomplish it.
Breaking them down LBP style you might look at them like this:
The first four rules deal with introductions. So if your level is an introduction to a series then it should have something that looks like that. Your character starts out in an ordinary world and then they are called to complete a certain task. In Awesomeman's Waffle World, you are summoned to the king who then tasks you to help him and his people.
Step six is the middle of your level, or the middle of your series with step seven being the end of this section. You have introduced the world and the problem the player must fix. Now they have to solve your complex puzzles and jump over your pits full of gas, they also must prepare to face their biggest challenge. They may meet characters that are there to help them. They will most likely face enemies which they must jump on and destroy their brains. In Elijah's Sackboy 2109: A Dystopian Tale, you have an introduction to the normal world then you are given your quest then you must enter the special world of the underground. It is in here that you must face some hard platforming to reach your destination. He even included a talk bubble near the end telling you that you were almost there but there was one other thing you need to get past.
The ending of your level or series should have steps eight through twelve. The player must face death and overcome it, then after achieving this goal they must head towards their final confrontation and win. Thus completing the quest they were sent out to accomplish. In Delirium's The Cursed you have gone from the ordinary world to a creepy special world. You have explored the houses are now at the butterfly puzzle. You complete it. You are now forced to face death as you must past the flickering light and then are chased by what could be considered death itself. After surviving this deal you must make it through the last house to get to freedom. As you race to the roof you face Death again. I won't spoil the ending but if you succeed this second time you do get rewarded with being free from the village you were trapped in.
One level that exemplifies this the best out of all the levels I have played in Disk of Ankh Morpork by Adi and Lous.
1. You start off in the ordinary world of not being a theif.
2. Your call to adventure is you being told to go to the theif guild.
3. Your refusal of the call is the guard at the front stopping you.
4. The player though uses some platforming to get past him and meets the mentor when he makes it to the lecture by the leader of the guild.
5. The player then crosses the first threshold as they leave the guild to start their first quest as a thief.
6. They face enemies, make allies, and conquer tests in the form of the various quests they must complete.
7. They finally approach the cave when the leader sends them to sneak into the magician's guild.
8. They face their ordeal when they reach the top of the clock tower and seem to be killed by lightning.
9. They get the reward by entering the magician's guild.
10. Now in the magician's guild, the face the Road Back as they must go through it to find the magical book.
11. The resurrection hero is when he faces the mage at the end where the player must use his skills to defeat him.
12. The return with the elixir is when the player grabs the book.
Again I want to point out is that step six makes up most of the level so don't be fooled into thinking that it is just as small or quick as the other steps. That will be the major chunk that they will play through.
Using these twelve steps as a starting foundation, one can build a story of epic proportions! You will find that these steps are very universal and that your story might already fit them with out even knowing it. I again state that the more story heavy your level or series are, the more steps you should include. If your level is just a plain get from point a to point b, then all you need is steps 1, 2, 5, 6, 12 (11 if you want to have a boss fight.)
I hope that this was helpful and that it has inspired you to make good stories. As always please please please, leave a comment on here or a post in the thread to let me know if you liked/disliked/agreed/disagree/etc. this so I can know how to keep making these better. Thanks for reading!