Genre I, or Moving Down the Hero’s Road

Recently I wrote that Beam Me Home, Scotty!:  How Star Trek Can Help Us Make Sense of the Brain, PTSD, & Combat Trauma will be a Big Idea nonfiction.  In Shawn Coyne‘s terms, that will be the  book’s “global genre.”  Yet it’s also a Russian-doll story-within-a-story (three stories within one), so there is more than one genre to think about. Given that the “real” story starts with  Story Three, the story opening with Jane, Joe, and Colonel Kirk on the USS Enterprise’s bridge, what will be that story’s genre?

On the road to finding out, let’s take a trip.

More than once in the Story Grid podcasts, editor-Jedi Shawn recommends a book to his writer-padwan Tim Grahl: Chistopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, a writer-friendly take on Joseph Campbell’s classic, The Hero with a Thousand FacesVogler’s title says it all: one of the most commonplace (if not the ultimate common denominator) stories of all cultures, all times is the story of the the hero who goes on a journey to bring back home the elixir that will heal his land and bring peace and prosperity to all.

It seems that writers and critics either worship at the altar of Joseph Campbell or roll their eyes on the naive notion of such an altar. I’m not entering that debate.

Let’s face it:  Don DeLillo or Jonathan Franzen, I ain’t.  I’ll be lucky to tell a story that makes sense, let alone one that works.

So here’s the deal: if this structure worked for the ancients (and many who’s-who on the New York Times‘ bestseller list), that’s good enough for me.

Consequently, here’s to myth, and here’s to the structure of Story Three:

  • The Ordinary World
  • The Call to Adventure
  • The Refusal of the Call
  • Meeting with the Mentor
  • Crossing the Threshold
  • Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave
  • The Ordeal
  • Reward
  • The Road Back
  • The Resurrection
  • Return with the Elixir

Sounds impressive, eh?  I know: I’m doing Star Trek, not Star Wars, but, hey, myth is myth, no matter who’s the creative director.

It’s been a busy few days.  Moves are challenges. So I’m going to leave it there.

I’ll be fleshing this out much more, but before then, some more preliminaries. For before I go further into genre, let me talk about two other important “preliminary points”:  what does the hero want, and even more, what does the hero need?

Back soon.

One response

  1. Star Trek television episodes had to cherry-pick their heroic-journey aspects due to time constraints, but I’d venture to speculate that the feature films adhered more closely to the full slate.

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