What an honour to be name-checked in Charli’s post introducing the latest flash fiction challenge on rethinking the hero’s journey. Having been obsessed with my reservations about this story structure in the past, and equally obsessed with recording random ideas for the blog, I went to my drafts folder to look for something I could revise. Step forward Unheroic characters, grief, ambivalence and mourning. Right, okay? Except I find I’m no longer so obsessed. Never mind, some of what I dictated so earnestly a couple of years ago can be salvaged.
I found that in my reading of The Summer House as a dialogue between denial, manic reparation and true mourning. Is that the hero’s journey or something else?
I felt on firmer ground with my review of Should You Ask Me: a lovely story about a young police officer, injured in the Second World War, discovering unexpected solace in the ramblings of an elderly woman making an unlikely confession of murder. As he coaxes the story out of her, she insists he reciprocates with his own tragic tale. In the process, the young man and the older woman achieve some release from the lies and guilt that have haunted their lives. In hero’s journey terms, it’s about leaving the cave. It’s rather like a therapy – or co-therapy – without the anxiety-inducing boundary violations usually associated with therapy-lit.
I’d been reluctant to apply the structure to my own real life, until reflecting on my lengthy psychotherapy, as described in a post last year: The therapy journey and narrative structure.
I’m teetering on the edge of overwhelm right now, and have made it harder for myself by wanting to use my existing material but not spend the time it needs to make it sing. (And wanting to make sure I safeguard time for online choral singing.) So I was pleased when the prompt rescued me from taking myself too seriously and led me into silly territory for my 99-word story. It’s a BOTS, but I’ve never been potholing and doubt I ever will.
HJ called to Writer. Writer rejected the call. “I’m a free spirit,” she claimed, plonking her characters in a featureless landscape without a map. Seeing them floundering, Ally asked questions. Listened. Reframed. Writer refused to control her characters, the novel more unwieldy with every draft.
Frustrated, she abandoned fiction for caving. When falling rocks blocked the exit, Buddy prescribed guided imagery to combat panic. “You’re home, safe in bed. What are you wearing? What are you drinking?” Writer envisioned pyjamas and citrus: PJ and OJ proved her elixir. She’ll plot the Protagonist’s cum Ordinary Person’s Journey if she survives.