Hero Feeling at Home
Step 1 reveals The Ordinary World with its main characters, environment, and mood. Nevertheless, something seems wrong.
HERO’S PERSONALITY AND BACKGROUND SETTING
The main character (‘Hero’) is in his/her world (the ‘Ordinary World’) doing the things (s)he normally does. At this point the Hero is still a child, or a teenager – that is, not an adult. By describing this everyday activity, you can start to reveal (rather than just state) the Hero’s personal characteristics and inner world. It may be that the Hero has a particular strength or weakness of character that will determine how (s)he behaves later on, and that should be hinted at here. The Hero, as a child, will still be living very much with a child’s set of values, all of which will change.
Keep in mind that the Ordinary World of the Hero can be presented through some ordinary activity or the Hero’s typical state of mind. Of course, what’s ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ for the Hero is relative. In some cases – especially fantasies – the Hero’s ‘Ordinary World’ might, to us, be quite extraordinary.
Examples of Personality Revelation
* The older Leo, who narrates The Go-Between, portrays himself at twelve as a trusting, naive and slightly dreamy boy.
* Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone opens with Harry in his everyday life with the nasty Dursleys. Harry is shown as forbearing and good-natured, despite his mistreatment.
The Hero can be seen interacting with other people in his/her Ordinary World. This is all part of building an overall picture of the Hero’s personality and background. Note that the Hero will be surrounded by adults, teenagers and children alike, all of whom will affect the later transformation of the Hero.
There needs to be just a hint of the ‘Extraordinary World’ that the Hero will be entering in the future. This hint will in some way be connected to the Hero’s , though usually the is not yet introduced directly.
Examples of Foreshadowing
* To Kill A Mockingbird opens with a mention, unexplained, of Jem’s badly broken arm, later a key scene of the story.
* Leo in The Go-Between reveals in the opening chapter that as a boy he was obsessed with black magic, and believed himself capable of casting spells, so altering people’s destinies.
* In Star Wars, Luke is at home leading a very ordinary existence when he first discovers Artoo-Deetoo – the hint of an Extraordinary World.
MOOD AND CONTEXT
Story-Creation Step 1 should be a crafted prelude, presenting all the motifs that will later, bit by bit, come together in the overall picture. This opening Step should suggest an imbalance in the Hero’s World, an imbalance that, by the story’s end, will be redressed. Think of it as a piece of music, where the final chords will bring together in harmony all the disparate fragments of tunes and variant keys that have threaded in and out of the piece from the opening chords onwards.
Examples of Mood and Context
* The Go-Between takes place in a grand rural house in a searingly hot summer. The rising, stifling temperatures match the intense emotions and increasing tension among the characters, with the narrative moving ever closer to its stormy conclusion.
* Maycomb, Alabama, the setting for To Kill A Mockingbird, is depicted as insular, prejudiced and claustrophobic. The heat intensifies this image.
The scenes in this Step should take up about two percent of your story. (NB: For a 256-page novel this amounts to around five pages.) However, this is a guideline only and you should let the needs of your particular story dictate.