Welcome back Elan Samuel who adds his take on the journey of the protagonist in epic fantasy. For more by Elan, click here.
I had this plan, see. I was going to write a blog post called “Every Story Has Already Been Told”, which would postulate that even though we have the tools to categorize stories and build compelling outlines like, even though people say that all stories have been told, we still have the opportunity to approach these cultural memes and patterns from new angles.
I was going to write about that.
And then the wonderful C. Brennecke wrote her post, “The Marriage of the Hero and the Fool,” which, if you haven’t read it, you should go read it.
Did you read it? Good.
I loved the premise of adopting Tarot to plot development, and was hooked on her explanation of the Fool’s Journey from the get-go. As I read point-by-point through her outline, I found that it aligned, almost one-to-one, to an epic fantasy tale I’ve been cranking at off-and-on for a few years. (I decided it was a little too complex, and that I wanted to improve as a storyteller before tackling the story.)
I’m not kidding. It’s almost identical to the outline for my story.
At first, I was a little discouraged, thinking the I’d unwittingly fallen into telling a very predictable, formulaic story. Then I remembered what I had been intending to write before this post—that even if every story has already been told (which I don’t necessarily believe), we can still create wonderful fiction.
After I’d realized the irony of my conflicting feelings, I took a second look at the Fool’s Journey. And realized that it’s a fantastic tool for keeping me, a relapsing “Pantser” (discovery writer) within the lines that I want to set for myself as I write. While it’s fun to just write and see where the story takes me, I have trouble finishing stories. They grow into a briar patch, cumbersome and thorny, and generally unpleasant.
Also they make no sense.
The great thing about seeing C. Brennecke’s post is that it resuscitated my comatose story. I wrote thirty thousand words of it in a feverish couple of months, then it scared me. I worried that I would wreck a great idea. Seeing this clear outline makes me less afraid—it tells me I was on the right track.
So what am I going to do with this newly rekindled desire to tell this story?
I’m going to copy the twenty-one steps of the Fool’s Journey, put them into a spreadsheet, and align my story as closely as I can to it. Then, I’m going to get back to writing.
Thanks Christine. You unknowingly lit a fire under me.
Make sure you read Christine’s Fool’s Journey post here — who knows, maybe you can relate in your own story as well?
By day, Elan Samuel is a writer and editor at a tech company in San Francisco. By night, he writes fiction and reviews books of all kinds on his blog, The Warbler. His wildest dreams include becoming a published author and building a career in which he can read all day, preferably near a body of water.