The Bedlam books are all about traveling from one spot to another and surviving whatever is in the middle. This might change down the road, but I see no reason to mess with the system right now. So, one could compare these to the classic Hero’s Journey like Jason and the Golden Fleece or the Camelot Knights looking for the Holy Grail. Although, Lloyd and Cassidy are nothing like noble heroes. The basic idea is the same, but what are some things to consider when doing a story like this?
- Every stage and challenge is important. The heroes grow through physical and mental obstacles that appear in every chapter. This isn’t to say that dialogue and downtime sections are omitted. You can have those, but the conversation does have to pertain to their growth. Most times the Hero’s Journey involves a character becoming a hero over the course of working toward their main goal.
- The goal should be established near the beginning. This is the driving force and many times it’s physical. A person, an item to save a place, or just a thingy that everyone wants can be the goal. The character will evolve and learn in order to defeat every obstacle between them and their goal. This is something that should work off what they already are. For example, a character who uses stealth and speed getting a bunch of skills that involve brute force might not mesh too well.
- A non-physical goal is another possibility and can go with a physical one. A character can set off to restore his family’s honor, but needs to retrieve a specific sword or some lost item. Still, you don’t really need the physical component. A perfect example of a Hero’s Journey without that is ‘Mulan’. She wanted to save her father without damaging his armor. Maybe saving China is a physical one though.
- Temporary failure can be an option. Heroes don’t always succeed, but they never give up either. An obstacle can result in a detour and this keeps the protagonist humble. It isn’t like the ancient days or even the olden days where heroes had to either claim victory or death. Going back to ‘Mulan’ in a way, Disney tends to do this in most of their movies. The hero is chugging along and will hit a wall that results in a moment of doubt, which they overcome in time. We can call this cliche or a trope, but many of us have probably had this happen when pushing for a lofty goal.
- Supporting cast can be critical. They aren’t only there for fodder or comic relief. In a Hero’s Journey, the secondary characters each have a hand in the protagonist’s evolution. Either they are there to teach a lesson or they fill in a gap in the hero’s skills that they can’t cover. Maybe the warrior has a healer and a sage. A caster can have a knight to protect him or her while casting. If all of the secondaries are there for laughs or deaths then it makes the protagonist appear as perfect from the start. Not much chance for evolving with that.
- The main villains don’t have to make many appearances. I’ve found that they can act more as puppet masters and final challenges. Having them appear too often can remove their power, especially since a reader might wonder why they don’t just kill the heroes. Only so long you can play with your food. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of ‘Inuyasha’. My biggest issue with this anime was that the heroes would work to gain the power to kill the main villain, but he’d be immune to it by the time they reach them. Once or twice is fine. Going beyond that drives readers up the wall and makes it feel like the story is dragging.
- Plan the path. This is more of a planner than pantser tip, but I find this helps to some extent. You don’t have to figure everything out. The beginning and ending are important, but it isn’t a journey without the middle. Even listing a few possible obstacles can help make things smoother. A jerky journey can make the characters and readers nauseous.