The second step on the hero’s journey is The Call to Adventure. Other terms I’ve read for this same point are the ‘trigger’ and the ‘catalyst’. In other words, something happens to start the story. If it didn’t, your protagonist would just trundle along in her ordinary life and we’d all…..zzzzzzzz.
I had a bit of a quick think of what was the call/trigger/catalogue in some well-known books and films:
Pride and Prejudice
Mr Binlgey arrives at Netherfield. Without this event the poor Bennett sisters would have continued doing up bonnets, embroidering and bickering until they were old maids.
A Christmas Carol
Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley.
Shrek is disturbed by fairy-tale characters hiding out in his swamp. This is in direct opposition to his goal – to live alone and happy in his swamp. He has a choice to make: live with the squatters or leave the swamp and visit Lord Farquad. One and a half hours of Shrek shouting at the three little pigs etc. would not have been a satisfying story, and he wouldn’t have learnt anything or grown at all.
Edward gets lost and has to stop and ask a hooker (Vivien) for directions.
Kate’s fiancé asks her to go to Paris with him.
There are as many different ways for the call to come as there are stories and characters. It may be a very obvious call – a telegram asking for help from a long-lost uncle, a friend who asks the hero to accompany them on a dangerous trip, war breaks out. Some calls come from within the character themselves – a vague feeling that they have to do something or die of stagnation, temptation, or a dream or vision.
Here as the questions I asked myself after reading Christopher Vogler’s chapter on the subject:
1. What is this character's call to adventure? Is it:
- A message
- An event
- A new character
- Something within the hero
- Hero's fed up with the status quo
- The last straw
- Synchronicity (lots of little things coincidentally pointing them in the right direction)
- Temptation (money, love, travel to exotic places)
- Lack or need (do they need money or are they searching for a lost dog?)
- No more options
- Something else.
I decided to identify which, if any, of these calls applied to my current story. I then pondered whether the call would be more effective if it was given in another way. In the end, i stuck with what I had already written.
For Will, it was a letter from a solicitor, informing him that at the death of a distant relative he was now Lord Radcliffe and owner of Elmhurst Hall. None of this happens in the book. By the time we meet Will he has received the letter and travelled back to England. This is because the story starts with Josie receiving her call – the arrival of the new lord. Life at Elmhurst Hall is going to different and Josie has to decide whether she's going to dig her heels in or welcome him enthusiastically.
2. Is there a herald to present the call?
Sometimes there’s a character who delivers the call
3. Is the hero unsettled or confused?
Is the hero a willing or reluctant hero? Being asked to step out of the ordinary world can be disorienting or even downright scary.
4. Should the call come earlier/later in this story?
5. Does the call have an interesting twist so it's not a cliché?
6. Does your story have a succession of calls? If so, what different levels of adventure do they have?