Friday, August 30th, 2013

Writing Prompt: The Call to Action

A girl in a backback staring off into space.I got a phone call this morning, inviting me on an adventure.

(It was a fairly mundane adventure–more of an errand, really–but an adventure for me nonetheless.)

I summoned up my courage, belted on my longsword, picked up my rucksack and walked out the door.

(Okay, I decided whether or not I really wanted to do this, grabbed some extra cash– and my purse, and headed to the car.)

Despite perils (speed traps and dump trucks, a deer in the road, a box I tripped over…) I returned triumphant…

…and a good day was had by all.

I know this is all kind of vague, deliberately so, because I wanted to use it as an example.

The phone call this morning reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” a formula for writing stories, in which the first step is “the call to action.” I wanted to make clear from the start that Campbell’s formula is an excellent method for telling stories, despite the genre or method.

Campbell postulated that stories from all regions of the world, from all time periods, share common themes and patterns.

The first step in many stories is that the hero gets a call to action. Mine today was literally a phone call, but this call could come in a myriad of forms:

– a near-deathly accident could cause a person to change his life
– a stint in jail could cause a woman to reevaluate her priorities
– a college opportunity causes a student to change majors
– physician discovers something that sends him down a path of research

Basically, a call to action is an event, an opportunity, a discovery– a change from the norm–that brings a person to a decision point.

This “something” usually happens at the very beginning of a novel or short story.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write the opening of a new novel or short story: write your hero’s “call to action.” Develop your character enough for us to believe this “call” (and subsequent change in his life) is believable.
  • The second part of Campbell’s formula is the “refusal of the call.” Many heros are faced with situations they can’t tolerate. Write the call to action, and follow it up with a scene in which your hero refuses to heed it.
  • If your journal, write about a time you received the call. What happened?

Good luck!