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Beware the formula
on 11 June 2012
Christopher Vogler: The Writer's Journey (Third edition.)
I didn't read this all in one sitting, but gradually over a period of months. Based on the famous 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' by Joseph Campbell this offers detailed explanations of a set of myth-inspired storytelling paradigms which can be used as a step-by-step guide to plotting and character development. Largely aimed at screen-writers you can almost name films which have been written with a copy of this book on the table in the writers' room.
It's divided into two main sections. The first covers character archetypes such as: Hero; Mentor; Threshold Guardian etc. and the second, the stages of the 'journey' such as: Ordinary World; Call to Adventure; Refusal of the Call; meeting with the Mentor etc. Examples are given using pop culture references such as Star Wars.
It would be a serous mistake to actually use this as a paint-by-numbers guide, but it's interesting to compare how some of the identified archetypes and stages of the journey do fit many works of fiction, both written and filmic. In fairness Vogler himself advises against using the book to concoct a formula, but I suspect many Hollywood screen writers have latched on to it anyway for their classic three act structure.
For me it's interesting to see a set of rules to subvert if I possibly can. Just because you can follow a path, should you? Your decision.