In the hero’s journey there is a point where the hero is fighting his last battle when all will seem lost. He is pushed to his limits, he is tired, he already feels defeated and he wonders if it is worth it to go on. The strength he relies on to defeat his foe is gone and he is forced to face the truth that this fight might cost him his life. At this point one of two things have to happen. He must decide if he will continue the fight and he must remember some hidden power or strength or secret that will bring victory.
Depending on which monomyth text you’re reading, this moment is referred to as the dark night of the soul, the inmost cave, or the resurrection of the hero. It happens in every story. Sometimes the villain is an internal problem that must be solved. Sometimes our hero is overdramatic and the crisis is something minor, like a lost earring.
Here are a few famous examples:
Lord of the Rings: Frodo and Sam have finally reached Mount Doom and Frodo must decide to part with the precious one ring.
Frozen: Anna must choose between a kiss from Kristoff or saving Elsa from Han’s sword.
Titanic: Jack knows he can’t survive if he stays in the water but sacrifices himself to give Rose a chance at life.
The reason these stories are so compelling is because there is that chance of failure and of extreme loss. The characters have everything at stake and they must weigh themselves against the odds and make the right choice. Everything in the story has built up to this crucial moment and the audience understands the significance of what might happen should the hero succeed or fail.
The other reason these stories are so compelling is because they are a reflection of real life. They resonate with us. Who hasn’t had a moment where they feel like everything is lost and yet somehow they pull through? Ask a teenager, this happens daily. Reading or watching a story where the character must face hard decisions against all odds and still pull through gives the reader or watcher the inspiration and courage to face their own battles. When the hero comes through with grace and dignity, we are inspired to do the same.
For the month of August I am offering a free critique of a query letter or the first 20 pages of a manuscript. To enter all you have to do is click the “like” button. For a second entry, leave a comment! The winner will be notified at the end of the month.