Monday, September 13, 2010

The use of the "Ordinary World" in category romance

Since the RWA Oz conf, I've been thinking on the stages of the Hero's Journey, which Deb Dixon spoke about during her Friday workshop. She discussed Joseph Campbell's famous Hero's Journey, which has 12 different stages the protagonist/s must take during the course of a novel.

The first stage is the ''ORDINARY WORLD." In this stage, the writer is supposed to show a glimpse of the world where the h/H starts the story. It's supposed to give context for the story, establish a mundane/ordinary life, which can then be compared and contrasted to the new world (which begins in the "CALL TO ADVENTURE" section. The idea is to establish this ordinary world as quickly as possible, but apparently you can take as long as you want - lol! I think the taking as long as you want bit really only applies to Single Title.

But this got me thinking about the many category books I read and how more often than not there is NO or only a tinsy glimpse of the h/H's ORDINARY WORLD.

In my New Voices entry, ONE ROGUE, ONE DAMSEL, I've completely missed out the heroine's ordinary world. The first sentence of the story launches her straight out of her comfort zone but the reader doesn't actually know then what her comfort zone (ORDINARY WORLD) is.

In the other wip, the first chap starts in the heroine's ORDINARY WORLD (a mundane place she's come back to after bad experiences overseas).

Both these stories are category novels aimed at Harlequin Mills & Boon, so what I'm interested in is how you see the ORDINARY WORLD applying in short category novels.

Do you think setting up an ORDINARY WORLD only to wretch the hero or heroine straight out of it is necessary or do you think slightly different rules apply in category?!

Have I made any sense at all!?

If you know anything about Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, I'd love your thoughts on how it fits category romance!!

On another issue all together, how fun is the New Voices contest? I'm surprised that they've only got 250-ish entries at the moment. I thought there'd be a lot more but am wondering if some people will upload at the very last minute so they don't have to subject themselves to public comment? Will be interesting to see how the contest pans out. There's plenty of really fabulous entries up there so far but I'm never one to second guess what an editor likes, so I reckon, it's anyone's game!!!


Jackie Ashenden said...

I reckon it depends entirely on the story. In category romance, you often want to start the action at a point of change for one of the characters, and that either means the loss of their ordinary world (your lovely heroine) or the intrusion of the other character into the ordinary world of the other and thus throwing it out of balance. So I guess it depends on what kind of story you're writing.
Certainly for category, you don't have a lot of time to to 'glimpse' a character's ordinary world if you're writing a 'loss of that world' story - unless you use it in introspection.
Interesting post m'dear!

Lacey Devlin said...

Fab post Rach! I've never thought of it in terms of and ordinary world and an adventure world. Although the contrast is probably greater in single title where there is more words to play with. I agree with Jackie in thinking that it depends entirely on the story.

NV - I think that entries will double at the last minute but you'll probably still be able to comment on them until the judging is finished. At least I hope you will. Congrats on being in the top ten most popular every day since you uploaded. Yay!

Janette Radevski said...

Great post! Again, I'm gonna go with the flow and say agree with Jackie & Lacey.

And as for NV - have I told you how proud I am of you & Jackie? I've always known I've got star CP's and now that whole world knows how fab you both are!

Rachael Johns said...

Glad you liked it Jackie :)

Oh Lacey - I hadn't thought about that but you are probably right. WE SHOULD be able to read all the entries no matter when they are posted. Yay!

Janette - you are TOO sweet!

Anonymous said...

I think there's more than one way to tell a story and the hero's journey is not the only way.

Besides if you have too much ordinary world, you possibly have too much backstory.

Rachael Johns said...

Wise words Diane :) And thanks for popping by!!!

Bec said...

Everyone has made interesting points!
Something Jackie said resonated. In catagory we start at the point of change, but through introspection or dialogue or something, we need to show how the situation is different to the ordinary world. Give the reader a glimpse that way. All while keeping the pace up, foreshadowing the emotional conflict, making her likeable and him hot.
Gosh this catagory stuff is easy hey?

Leah said...

Wow, interesting post, Rach! I think you're right, in category we don't have as much time to show the ordinary world - it almost seems a contradiction to the whole "start at a moment of change" thing :) I think we can show glimpses of the ordinary world as we reveal a character's past and motivation.

With New Voices, I think there will also be people like me. Not anti-putting my chapter up for comment, just not finished yet!

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