Endurance Requires Rewards

When Voldemort kills Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows part II, Harry enters a Threshold existence, a “waiting station”.  Dearly beloved Dumbledore is there, and we and Harry discover three things.

  1. Voldemort, the Half-Blood Prince, is half-dead.  His horcrux soul attached to Harry is dead;  only the horcrux in the python remains.  Once that is destroyed, Voldemort’s physical being can be killed.
  2. Death is a transition. Harry can choose to move on or return and fulfill all of his destiny.
  3. Everything that has happened—the tortuous years at Hogwarts and with his aunt and uncle, Hermione’s wiping her existence from her parents’ memories, Dobby’s sacrificial death and the multi-layered loss of Sirius Black—all have purpose. The multiple sacrifices of the Dear will lead to a greater, freer existence.

Friendship, loyalty, and love brought Harry through the battles.  These three are the ultimate reward:  a reward that Voldemort mocks.

Someone said, in reaction to the white station scene with Dumbledore, “It’s all been worth it;  now we know.”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

The Treasure that Helps us Endure

  • For Anne Eliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Frederick Wentworth’s renewed love will help her endure the last few days with her atrocious family. Through the Ordeal, she intellectually and emotionally divorced herself from her old life.  In the Reward, she looks to the potential of the future.
  • In The 13th Warrior, the Wendol Mother is dead. The warriors escaped from the inescapable lair.  They lost comrades;  their leader is dying;  they must still battle the Wendol leader.  But they can taste success, and they begin to reap the rewards.  This is especially true for Ibn, who did not understand the Warrior Code.  He understands it now.  When the culminating battle approaches, he now fully understands the purification prayer he was taught and the Northmen’s Invocation of Blood.

As audience, as writers, we relish the moment of the Reward even as we anticipate the last three stages:  the Road Back, the Resurrection (of the Evil and of the Protagonist), and the Return with the Elixir.  It’s time, we may think, for this to be over.  We want that first sip of the Elixir.

Hold on.  Stay in the Reward moment.  Our audience, our protagonists, and we as writers:  we all need that Reward.

The Reward requires the same consideration as the Approach to the Inmost Cave: Click here to refer to that blog in a new window.

In Approach, our protagonists acknowledge their increasing transformation as they reject any return to the Ordinary World and their former Dears.

The Last Reward

Here, in Stage 9, our protagonists achieve the last necessary change to themselves, to their goals, and to their desires.

“Achieve” does not mean a change occurs.  Instead, protagonists can grasp their transformed goal, their new Dear.

In Approach, that goal and Dear were merely contemplated as the once-enticing old ones were rejected.

Now, the lover embraces his beloved, the king steps foot in his restored realm, the fighter sees justice again in play instead of trampled under vengeful foot.

The Reward is tangible, a living and pulsing reality that proves “It’s all been worth it;  now we know.”

Ordeal vs. Reward

As the Ordeal was all-out hatred, the Reward is all-out love.  The protagonist basks in celebration at achieving the new Dear.

And the new Dear is welcoming, joyful in contemplation of union with the protagonist.

To continue any conflict between the protagonist and the new Dear is to frustrate the audience.

This is the power of Dumbledore in the Reward of The Deathly Hallows part II.  He proves all points of the juxtaposition of Harry with Voldemort in the Ordeal.

This is Anne Eliot’s return home in Persuasion, in the old world as she anticipates the new and quite happy as she reject completely the old.

13th Warrior gives with one hand as it takes with the other.  One great defeat waits upon the next;  one heroic victory waits on an heroic death.  Buliwye is rewarded—oh, not with King Vortigern’s promised treasures and great funeral bonfire that a hero deserves.  “There is more, Little Brother,” as Herger says.  With the queen’s quick look around at the king’s promise, we know more than gold and weapons will pass with Buliwye through that bonfire into Valhalla.

A similar both-handed Ordeal and Reward occurs in The Return of the King with Eowyn.  As she killed the Nazguhl and its rider, she lost her beloved uncle.  In her Reward, she has wounds to recover from and a worthy man to recover with.

The Difficult Reward

For protagonists (like Harry Potter) who did not defeat the antagonist during the Ordeal, the culminating conflict occurs in Stage 11, the Resurrection.

If the protagonists failed spectacularly in the Ordeal, they are now prisoners of the antagonistic force.

Continuing to live is not the Reward.  Sorry, writers;  it’s not that easy.

The Reward provides opportunities for the miraculous, the foreshadowy magical (hinted at but never seen until this moment).

A beloved ally sacrifices himself to save the protagonists (Dobby).

The stone heart finally cracks; the ice finally melts.

Or information so desperately needed earlier becomes available now.

Or the untrusted Shapeshifter becomes trustworthy;  the trickster’s earlier trick percolates for hours, days, weeks and finally works out, exploding the imprisoning cage.

The impossible escape becomes possible through the others that the protagonist gathered earlier:  the thunder cliffs of 13th Warrior.

To Queen Elizabeth in The Crown, episode 7, the professor reminds her that she studied with the finest Constitutional scholar of England.  “You know all the fine points of our Constitution,” he tells her.  “You know more than anyone else.”  And this young woman, whom the world perceived as weak and lesser and not intellectual, realizes that she is more than anyone imagined, anyone including herself.  Elizabeth reaches an understanding that she had but didn’t comprehend:  “It is not my job to govern, but it is my job to ensure proper governance.”

Wrapping Up

The Reward is for our protagonists, our audiences, and ourselves as writers.

Be in the moment and don’t race through it.

The last three stages belong to the last segment of the Archetypal Story Pattern: Return and Re-Integration.

  1. The key to the antagonist’s ultimate defeat is found.
  2. The protagonists have their Dear and a new resolve and determination to achieve their goal.
  3. The protagonists think as individuals, not as the group taught them to think.

Join us on November 20 for the Road Back, Stage 10 of the 12-Stage Archetypal Story Pattern.  We’re almost done.

“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.

Protagonists

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.

Persuasion

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.

13th Warrior

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.

The unexpected opponent for a hulking Northman
  • 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”.

The Antagonists

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:

  1. When the dear is destroyed, propelling the protagonist into the journey (Stage 2).
  2. This Ordeal
  3. The Resurrection (Stage 11)
Deathly Hallows

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.

  1. He has won!  Harry cannot escape him.
  2. And the poor deluded fool willingly sacrificed himself for weak wizards and half-bloods.
  3. This deluded fool will die.

But . . .

  1. 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.

Wrapping Up

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!

 

 

Writing Story: Destroy the Dear

The Call to Adventure

 

The rain it raineth on the just

But also on the unjust fellow;

But chiefly on the just because

The unjust stole the just’s umbrella.

~ Charles Bowen, Lord Bowen

Second Stage of Story is the Call to Adventure, our C2A.  In this Stage, we writers get to be cruel.  We are going to sacrifice, as mercilessly as possible, the cherished thing.

We are going to Destroy the Dear that the protagonist clings to.

That Dear can be a person, place, thing, object, or idea.

Starting the Story

For the destruction, we already know who and what, by whose aid, why and how, and when and where. We mapped this information before we wrote the Ordinary World (OW).

Now all we need to do is write it, right?

Not quite.

We do have the bulk of our work done.  A couple of other considerations still dangle before us.

1st Look at the C2A

The protagonist is reactive in the C2A.  The contented existence of the OW is being destroyed in the C2A.  The protagonist has no control in this stage.

We can increase the angst for our primary characters when we give the protagonist a small measure of control then take it away.

The angst increases when that tiny ounce of control is protecting the dear thing.  If the protagonist protected the dear, thought it was safe while s/he went to protect some other thing (or went to confront the antagonist), and then we writers destroy the dear, the angst triples in shock value.

Airplane travel
Can we leave? Can we leave? Get outta the way!

No one likes to lose control.  Most people’s difficulties with flying arise from that loss of control.  We can control nothing on an airplane:  not boarding, not seating, not stowing our carry-ons, not our checked baggage, not encounters with our fellow travelers, not the AC or the heat, not the filtering of the air, not the cleanliness of our seats or blankets or dining tray, not take off, and not landing.  And certainly not debarking.

The protagonist’s loss of control could be emotional.  It has more impact on the audience when s/he avoids hysterics and only loses physical control (environment, safety) or intellectual ability to choose, ability to act, and ability to concentrate.

2nd of the C2A

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs ranks our functioning levels.

Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

On which of the five levels does the protagonist land while in the OW Stage?  Most of us operate at Esteem or Love.  These are most important.  Few people ever achieve Altruism (self-actualization).

When we destroy the dear, the protagonist will drop down to a lower rung.

Let’s Take Taken.

Taken presents a near-perfect C2A.

For the OW, the protagonist is with his daughter, his cherished dear.

We see his relationship with her, an atypical view of a father not giving his daughter the best gift.  We see his allies and his all-important “skill-set”, and we see how his attempt to control the safety of his daughter is undermined by his ex-wife.

While he manages to maintain a modicum of control, it is further undermined when he realizes his ex-wife and daughter have lied to him about the daughter’s trip:  the daughter and her friend will be in multiple cities, not just one.

All this is Ordinary World.

In the C2A, the antagonist is already in motion.  This Stage starts innocently enough with a phone call.

Then the true antagonists arrive.  First we see the danger to the friend, reported by the daughter to the protagonist.  He knows no secure place is available, so he directs his daughter to give him the evidence needed to track the abductors.

For a brief moment, we the audience are fooled that safety may occur.  Then our willful—& wanting and praying—blindness is ripped away.

Taken 2008
The cherished dear is threatened . . . Taken 2008

The protagonist’s negotiation with the abductor restores a semblance of control—but it is only a semblance.  He is thousands of miles away.  He has very little evidence to work with.  As a final affront, the antagonist crushes the daughter’s cell phone under his heel.

From the Esteem level, our protagonist drops down to Safety Concerns for his daughter.

As the story rolls, he does drop further to Survival, briefly.  By the end, he is back to Intrinsic Esteem.  The transformation needed was not his but his daughter’s and his ex-wife’s, to value what they had previously despised.

The Destruction of his Dear is never achieved (although we see several mirrors of it).  It does come so close that the audience’s adrenaline shoots up and never really drops down until the very end.

Three More Takes on Dear Destruction

Horror

Dean Koontz does the same thing in his 2005 Velocity, pitting a young woman against a twisted serial killer.  Once the C2A occurs, the reader is on a plummeting ride.

Our protagonist holds her friend’s life dear.  When she realizes the friend’s family is dead, she braves herself  to climb into the killer’s RV to save her friend.  Unfortunately, her own safety is destroyed when she is trapped.

The action-adventure genre provides the clearest reading of the 12 Stages of the Hero’s 

Persuasion, 2007: Rupert Penry Jones & Sally Hawkins at odds

Journey.  However, virtually every story follows this archetypal structure.

Satire

In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the dear was sacrificed long before the start of the story.  It is the return of the dear that presents the C2A, as well as the obstacle that will have the re-acquisition of the dear become nearly impossible.

The loss of Captain (Lt.) Frederick Wentworth left Anne Elliott shattered.  She has rebuilt the semblance of an existence (for she is not living).  When she re-encounters Frederick, she must clutch a chair to stay upright.  Her unexpressed pain is so great even her self-absorbed sister notices Anne’s pallor before her egocentrism re-centers itself.

Tragedy

Shakespeare’s Macbeth holds the kingship as the dear thing.  To achieve it, Macbeth must sacrifice his honor and accept kin-killing and king-killing, all in Act I.  Here is something he has always wanted.  Macbeth is a better warrior than his cousin.  He knows that he has the respect of other thanes and fighters.  He saved the battle for his cousin the king.  Only a sequence of birth prevented the crown from coming to him.

Act II concerns his refusal of the C2A.  We learn the importance of Lady Macbeth in pushing her husband to commit murder.  We see her control over his physical and emotional desires.  And we see the commission of three murders, one of them “perfect”, for without Macbeth’s continued evil in Act III, no one would have had any suspicion that he had killed his cousin the king who was staying as a guest in his house.

Reap the Rewards of Destruction

We writers need to set up the emotional connection of the protagonist to the Dear in the OW.  In the C2A, we must remove the protagonist’s control and have her/him too shocked to do more than react.

Then we must hurt our darlings.  Never hesitate to the Destroy the Dear.

Our readers will thank us.

Join us for the next Stage of the Hero’s Journey on the 10th of June.  On the 1st of each month, Writers Ink will have a promotion for a book by one of a W.INK writers.

~ M. A. Lee

Best Scene
Persuasion, 1995, with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. The Preferred Version