“No man can enter the same river twice, for the second time it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” ~ Heraclitus
All-Out Hatred: the Ordeal
75% of our writing energies have built to the Ordeal. ¾ of the book is behind us. Are we ready?
Wrapping up the last blog, I said the Ordeal is all-out hatred: Click here to read.
It has to be hatred. This Ordeal is the supreme battle.
And the outcome of that battle? The encounter with chief antagonist must drive our protagonists to sacrifice everything to defeat her/him.
If unsuccessful, our protagonists will be imprisoned by the antagonist; escape isn’t possible.
If successful, remnants of the antagonistic evil remain to twine python-like until Stages 10 and 11.
To this point, our protagonists have struggled through tests—with mixed successes and failures—designed to change and to prepare for the Ordeal (July 20 Blog).
Now, here at the Ordeal, they do not dare fail. Failure means dire consequences.
The Ordeal is not a proving ground; it is the battlefield.
Strategies, skills, and allies are all essential for this battle.
However, this is not the ultimate battle; that comes at Stage 11: Resurrection.
Anne Elliott has struggled to retain her dream against her obedience to family, her private desire against public criticism. The daughter of nobility, she fell in love with an untitled sea captain unacceptable to her family and her mentor. Anne’s introverted personality prevented her from publicly declaring her dream.
In the Ordeal, Anne finally and publicly demands her desire. She tells her brother-in-law. She exhorts him to ensure that Capt. Wentworth comes to her family’s party. Her urgency is an open declaration of her love brought into the very circle that rejected him.
In the 1995 film, after her declaration to her brother-in-law, Anne encounters Frederick Wentworth on the street. Her brother-in-law continues on while Anne and Frederick cleave to each other. After the kiss we have been rooting for, they stroll through the streets. They are so engrossed in each other that they don’t even see the arrival of a circus. The celebratory and exotic circus they care about is the connection of their hearts.
The Ordeal in this film occurs deep in the lair of the Wendol, the cannibalistic cave-dwellers. While Ibn and the remaining warriors hold off the Wendol warriors, Buliwye goes to defeat the “Mother of the Wendol”.
Buliwye is conditioned to protect women, from queen to the lowliest servant. Early in the film, at the Call to Adventure, when Ibn first meets the Northmen, we see Buliwye’s conditioning. The dim lighting makes the details difficult to see but invest the effort.
The old king is dead; a new king must be found. The challenger sits beside Buliwye at the funeral feast. He wants to attack, hoping to catch his rival by surprise. He plans to strike as the servant girl offers a tray of food. Yet Buliwye anticipates his rival’s plan. When the girl offers the tray, he backs her up with a gesture—getting her out of the way before the battle begins.
At the Ordeal, Buliwye faces the Wendol Mother: a queen with a harem of warriors, someone who considers human sacrifice as holy worship and who is a cannibalistic predator: “They eat the dead.”
She is his ultimate enemy.
- He anticipates an old woman; she is young.
- He wields a sword; she has only a claw.
- He knows women are weaker than he is; she levels their battle with poison.
- He expects a woman untrained in battle; she fights with speed and skill.
She is everything he doesn’t expect—and she cuts him with the envenomed claw because he never expected “her”.
Wars are not won if the protagonist doesn’t have all-out hatred for the antagonistic force.
Anne Eliot has to hate her family’s hidebound snobbery and illogical relationships to cast off her belief in their “rightness”. We have seen her change coming.
- her older sister’s entitled privilege,
- her younger sister’s absolute selfishness,
- and both evils in equal parts in her father.
Lady Russell her mentor is now also proven in error, by Mrs. Smith’s gossip based on fact, not speculation. Anne’s inner guide led her to Frederick; now she understands that her love for Frederick was a leading “away” and not “astray”.
Because he didn’t expect the Wendol Mother, Buliwye didn’t “hate” her enough. His mortality comes rushing toward him. He separates her head from her body, defeating her. But she has already killed him, slow poison with no antidote.
And the Wendol leader still remains.
The Antagonists and their Ordeal
In the Ordeal, good writers consider their protagonists’ hatred of the antagonists.
Great writers consider their antagonists’ hatred of the protagonists.
The antagonist has three shining moments in the story:
- When the dear is destroyed, propelling the protagonist into the journey (Stage 2).
- This Ordeal
- The Resurrection (Stage 11)
The Resurrection is the culminating battle: Harry and Voldemort, finally mano y mano. Yet we are in the Ordeal. The protagonist wants success—he might even achieve it, temporarily. However, the antagonistic force remains strong until Stage 11; the Ordeal is Stage 8.
Antagonists despise everything the protagonists stand for. Their hatred, however, becomes a weakness.
Voldemort in the Deathly Hallows Ordeal gloats over his success in enticing Harry into the Forbidden Forest.
- He has won! Harry cannot escape him.
- And the poor deluded fool willingly sacrificed himself for weak wizards and half-bloods.
- This deluded fool will die.
But . . .
- Harry could never escape Voldemort; they were connected from the beginning although Voldemort didn’t know it.
- Harry has realized the connection between them.
- That connection has to cease, or Voldemort will continue to live.
2. Sacrifice for others is not a weakness, but a strength.
- Friendship is common caring and loyalty.
- Voldemort does not inspire friendship. His followers stay because they hate the opposing side or they delight in evil. Neither reason inspires loyalty that endures hardship.
3. Harry will not die; he has the philosopher’s stone.
- Voldemort’s unknown horcrux will die, weakening him in unexpected ways.
The Deathly Hallows’ Ordeal
is a series of juxtapositions
between Harry and Voldemort.
The Inmost Cave of the Ordeal is more than the location, the Forbidden Forest. The darkest fear of all is Death, for the audience as well as for this antagonist. Voldemort, who fears death more than anything else, believes he has conquered it. The darkest evil is revenge. Harry counters Voldemort’s revenge against all perceived slights with compassion and loyalty and sacrifice, the ultimate loving gift.
The Ordeal leaves Voldemort thinking he has won and Harry knowing that he has. The encounter with Dumbledore merely confirms what Harry has discovered and what Voldemort will never understand.
All-out hatred never withstands love.
We strengthen our story’s Ordeals by considering both protagonist and antagonist.
We can choose to have our protagonist succeed or fail.
With Persuasion, success leads to greater success.
In 13th Warrior, we anticipate a heroic death even as we screw up tension for the final battle.
Deathly Hallows shows us failure that is success and success that is failure.
Coming up is Stage 9, a Reward.
Without a Reward, few audience members are willing to continue with our stories. And face it, we writers need a reward as well.
Join us on the 20th!