The trickster behaves as the comic relief in situations.
When we are taking ourselves too seriously, the Trickster part of our personalities may pop up to bring back perspective as it is needed.
– “An old rule of drama points out the need for balance: Make ’em cry a lot; let ’em laugh a little.”
While tricksters are usually vital to the development of a plot they are not always helping the hero.
– “Tricksters may be servants or Allies working for the hero or Shadow, or they may be independent agents with their own skewed agendas.”
Through out many mythologies there have been different tricksters helping to fulfill the roles and functions outlined above. In particular Norse Mythology outlines the ultimate trickster archetype in the form of Loki.
– “The Tricksters of mythology provide many examples of the workings of this archetype. One of the most colorful is Loki, the Norse god of trickery and deceit. A true Trickster, he serves the other gods as legal counselor and advisor, but also plots their destruction, undermining the status quo. He is fiery in nature, and his darting, elusive energy helps heat up the petrified, frozen energy of the gods, moving them to action and change. He also provides much-needed comic relief in the generally dark Norse myths.
Loki is sometimes a comical sidekick character in stories featuring the gods Odin or Thor as heroes. In other stories he is a hero of sorts, a Trickster Hero who survives by his wits against physically stronger gods or giants. A t last he turns into a deadly adversary or Shadow, leading the hosts of the dead in a final war against the gods.”
There are many examples of the Trickster Hero throughout the folk and fairy tales of the world. Some of the most popular trickster heroes have taken the form a rabbits. A creature famed for being cunning and quick in adverse circumstances.
– “Some of the most popular Tricksters are rabbit heroes: the Br’er Rabbit of the American South, the Hare of African tales”
Even in modern times the rabbit still embodies the trickster hero. Bugs Bunny of course fills the role of the rabbit Trickster.
– “The Warner Brothers animators made use of folktale plots to pit Bugs against hunters and predators who didn’t stand a chance against his quick wits.”
Sometimes stories seek to turn the trickster Hero into an antagonist such as in the tortoise and the Hare, the slowest outwits the fastest by dogged persistence or by cooperating with others who are not allied with the trickster to outwit the faster animal.
– “Tricksters are often catalyst characters, who affect the lives of others but are unchanged themselves. Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop displays Trickster energy as he stirs up the existing system without changing much himself.”
All character archetypes can be used to build on to create unique characters with psychologically realistic personalities and interactions with others.
-“ The archetypes are an infinitely flexible language of character. They offer a way to understand what function a character is performing at a given moment in a story. Awareness of the archetypes can help to free writers from stereotyping, by giving their characters greater psychological verity and depth. The archetypes can be used to make characters that are both unique individuals and universal symbols of the qualities that form a complete human being. They can help make our characters and stories psychologically realistic and true to the ancient wisdom of myths.”
The ordinary world where most heroes begin their journeys is examined though out, ‘The Ordinary world’ in, ‘The Writer’s Journey’.
– “The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the beginning of the typical hero’s journey. “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder…”
In the beginning there are many creative choices to be made n regards to how the story is told.
– “What’s the first thing your audience will experience? The title? The first line of dialogue? The first image? Where in the lives of your characters will the story actually begin? Do you need a prologue or introduction, or should you jump right into the middle of the action?”
How a story begins usually sets the tone and creates an impression on how the whole narrative should be told. The mood of the story is established in its opening it will give the audience a frame of reference to better experience the work.
– “The mythological approach to story boils down to using metaphors or comparisons to get across your feelings about life.”
– “The great German stage and film director Max Reinhardt believed that you can create an atmosphere in a theatre well before an audience sits down or the curtain goes up. A carefully selected title can strike a metaphor that intrigues the audience and attunes them to the coming experience. Good promotion can engage them with images and slogans that are metaphors for the world of your story. By controlling music and lighting as the audience enters the space, and consciously directing such details as the attitudes and costumes of the ushers, a specific mood can be created.”
These methods help to put the audience in the ideal frame of mind and can help to create whatever mood you wish. Oral storytellers begin their tales with ritualized phrases (“Once upon a time”) and personalized gestures to get the attention of the audience. These signals can cue the listeners to the funny, sad, or ironic mood of the story they will hear. The title, opening image and prologue are all very important for showing the audience the way in which a story will progress.
– “Some stories begin with a prologue section that precedes the main body of the story, perhaps before the introduction of the main characters and their world. The fairy tale of “Rapunzel” begins with a scene before the birth of the hero, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast begins with a prologue illustrated in stained glass, giving the backstory of the Beast’s enchantment. Myths take place within a context of mythical history that goes back to the Creation, and events leading up to the entrance of the main character may have to be portrayed first. Shakespeare and the Greeks often gave their plays a prologue, spoken by a narrator or a chorus, to set the tone and give the context of the drama.”
There must always be a strong contrast between the ordinary world and the Special world. This contrast between the two worlds is made so audience and hero will experience a dramatic change when moving from one into the other.
– “In The Wizard of Oz the Ordinary World is depicted in black and white, to make a stunning contrast with the Technicolor Special World of Oz. In the thriller Dead Again, the Ordinary World of modern day is shot in color to contrast with the nightmarish black-and-white Special World of the 1940s flashbacks. City Slickers contrasts the drab, restrictive environment of the city with the more lively arena of the West where most of the story takes place.”
When comparing the two worlds, the Ordinary world can appear drab and boring. The problems and conflicts the hero will encounter are already present in the ordinary world but they are emphasized when encountered in the Special World.
Foreshadowing is also used a lot in films by having a scene played out in the ordinary world in the establishing shots of the film, mimicked later on once the hero has entered the Special world.
– “Writers often use the Ordinary World section to create a small model of the Special World, foreshadowing its battles and moral dilemmas. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clashes with ornery Miss Gulch and is rescued from danger by three farmhands. These early scenes foretell Dorothy’s battles with the Witch and her rescue by the Tin Woodsman, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow.”
Another important part of plat development is the Raising of the Dramatic Question. This helps to create intrigue and interest in the plot.
– “Every good story poses a series of questions about the hero. Will she achieve the goal, overcome her flaw, and learn the lesson she needs to learn? Some questions relate primarily to the action or plot.”
The second part of the Raised Question is the problems, which need to be solved by the hero. These are inner and outer problems and every hero needs one.
– “In developing fairy tales for Disney Feature Animation, we often find that writers can give the heroes a good outer problem: Can the princess manage to break an enchantment on her father who has been turned to stone? Can the hero get to the top of a glass mountain and win a princess’ hand in marriage? Can Gretel rescue Hansel from the Witch? But sometimes writers neglect to give the characters a compelling inner problem to solve as well.”
Characters who lack inner problems are lack depth and are engaging. They need an inner problem, a personality flaw or a moral dilemma to work out. They need to learn something in the course of the story: how to get along with others, how to trust themselves, how to see beyond outward appearances. Audiences love to see characters learning, growing, and dealing with the inner and outer challenges of life.
Then entrance of the Hero is also hugely important. How the audience first experiences your hero is another important condition you control as a storyteller. What is he doing the first time we see him, when he makes his entrance? What is he wearing, who is around him, and how do they react to him? What is his attitude, emotion, and goal at the moment? Does he enter alone or join a group, or is he already on stage when the story begins? Does he narrate the story, is it told through the eyes of another character, or is it seen from the objective eye of conventional narrative?
– “The character’s first action is a wonderful opportunity to speak volumes about his attitude, emotional state, background, strengths, and problems. The first action should be a model of the hero’s characteristic attitude and the future problems or solutions that will result. The first behavior we see should be characteristic. It should define and reveal character, unless your intent is to mislead the audience and conceal the character’s true nature.”
When Introducing the Hero to the audience it is important to note the function of the ordinary world in this. Like a social introduction, the Ordinary World establishes a bond between people and points out some common interests so that a dialogue can begin. In some way we should recognize that the hero is like us. In a very real sense, a story invites us to step into the hero’s shoes, to see the world through his eyes. As if by magic we project part of our consciousness into the hero.
The opening scenes also help the audiences identify the hero and create identification between the hero and the audience. Create identification by giving heroes universal goals, drives, desires, or needs. W e can all relate to basic drives such as the need for recognition, affection, acceptance, or understanding. The screenwriter Waldo Salt, speaking of his script for Midnight Cowboy, said that his hero Joe Buck was driven by a universal human need to be touched.
– “Fairy tale heroes have a common denominator, a quality that unites them across boundaries of culture, geography, and time. They are lacking something, or some thing is taken away from them. Often they have just lost a family member. A mother or father has died, or a brother or sister has been kidnapped. Fairy tales are about searching for completeness and striving for wholeness, and often it’s a subtraction from the family unit that sets the story in motion.”
The need to fill in the missing piece drives the story toward the final perfection of “They lived happily ever after.” These missing elements help to create sympathy for the hero, and draw the audience into desiring her eventual wholeness. Audiences abhor the vacuum created by a missing piece in a character.
– “Other stories show the hero as essentially complete until a close friend or relative is kidnapped or killed in the first act, setting in motion a story of rescue or revenge. John Ford’s The Searchers begins with news that a young woman has been kidnapped by Indians, launching a classic saga of search and rescue.”
Aristotle established the tragic hero and the tragic flaws that go with that role. The Tragic hero may possess many admirable qualities, but among them is one tragic flaw or hamartia that puts them at odds with their destiny, their fellow men, or the gods. Ultimately it leads to their destruction.
– “Most commonly this tragic flaw was a kind of pride or arrogance called hubris. Tragic heroes are often superior people with extraordinary powers but they tend to see themselves as equal to or better than the gods. They ignore fair warnings or defy the local moral codes, thinking they are above the laws of gods and men.”
All well-rounded heroes will have some sort of tragic flaw in their character.
– “Sometimes a hero may seem to be well-adjusted and in control, but that control masks a deep psychic wound. Most of us have some old pain or hurt that we don’t think about all the time, but which is always vulnerable on some level of awareness. These wounds of rejection, betrayal, or disappointment are personal echoes of a universal pain that everyone has suffered from: the pain of the child’s physical and emotional separation from its mother.”
ESTABLISHING WHAT’S AT STAKE
For readers and viewers to be involved in the adventure, to care about the hero, they have to know at an early stage exactly what’s at stake.
– “Myths and fairy tales are good models for establishing what’s at stake. They often set up a threatening condition that makes the stakes of the game very clear. Perhaps the hero must pass a series of tests or his head will be cut off. The Greek hero Perseus, portrayed in the movie Clash of the Titans, must undergo many ordeals or his beloved princess Andromeda will be devoured by a sea monster. Other tales put family members in jeopardy like the father who is threatened in Beauty and the Beast, The hero Belle has a strong motivation to put herself in a dangerous position at the mercy of the Beast. Her father will languish and die unless she does the Beast’s bidding. The stakes are high and clear.”
The Ordinary World is the most appropriate place to deal with exposition and backstory. Backstory is all the relevant information about a character’s history and background — what got her to the situation at the beginning of the story. The hero’s social class, upbringing, habits, experiences, as well as the prevailing social conditions and opposing forces are all a part of what may affect the hero. Exposition is everything the audience needs to know to understand the hero and the story. Backstory and exposition are among the hardest writing skills to master. Clumsy exposition tends to stop the story cold. Blunt exposition draws attention to itself, giving the backstory in the form of a voiceover or a “Harry the Explainer” character that comes on solely for the purpose of telling the audience what the author wants them to know. Its usually better to put the audience right into the action and let them figure things out as the story unfolds.
– “Many dramas are about secrets being slowly and painfully revealed. Layer by layer the defenses protecting a hurtful secret are torn away. This makes the audience participants in a detective story, an emotional puzzle.”
Heroes may have no obvious missing piece, flaw, or wound. They may merely be restless, uneasy, and out of sync with their environment or culture. They may have been getting by, trying to adjust to unhealthy conditions by using various coping mechanisms or crutches such as emotional or chemical dependencies. They may have deluded themselves that everything is all right. But sooner or later, some new force enters the story to make it clear they can no longer mark time. That new energy is the Call to Adventure.
– “The Ordinary World of most heroes is a static but unstable condition. The seeds of change and growth are planted, and it takes only a little new energy to germinate them. That new energy, symbolized in countless ways in myths and fairy tales, is what Joseph Campbell termed the Call to Adventure.”
The Call to Adventure may come in the form of a message or a messenger. It may be a new event like a declaration of war, or the arrival of a telegram reporting that the outlaws have just been released from prison and will be in town on the noon train to gun down the sheriff. Serving a writ or warrant and issuing a summons are ways of giving Calls in legal proceedings.
– “A string of accidents or coincidences may be the message that calls a hero to adventure. This is the mysterious force of synchronicity, which C. G. Jung explored in his writings. The coincidental occurrence of words, ideas, or events can take on meaning and draw attention to the need for action and change. Many thrillers such as Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train get rolling because an accident throws two people together as if by the hand of fate.”
Temptation is also used as a way to call the hero to adventure. The allure of some exotic prize or destination is usually the temptation set before the hero.
– “In the Arthurian legend of Percival (aka Parsifal), the innocent young hero is summoned to adventure by the sight of five magnificent knights in armor, riding off on some quest. Percival has never seen such creatures, and is stirred to follow them. He is compelled to find out what they are, not realizing it is his destiny to soon become one of them.”
The call to adventure is usually brought by a character embodying the archetype of the Herald.
– “The Russian fairy-tale scholar Vladimir Propp identified a common early phase in a story, called reconnaissance. A villain makes a survey of the hero’s territory, perhaps asking around the neighborhood if there are any children living there, or seeking information about the hero. This information-gathering can be a Call to Adventure, alerting the audience and the hero that something is afoot and the struggle is about to begin.”
The Call to Adventure can often be unsettling and disorienting to the hero. Heralds sometimes sneak up on heroes, appearing in one guise to gain a hero’s confidence and then shifting shape to deliver the Call.
– “Alfred Hitchcock provides a potent example in Notorious. Here the hero is playgirl Ingrid Bergman, whose father has been sentenced as a Nazi spy. The Call to Adventure comes from a Herald in the form of Cary Grant, who plays an American agent trying to enlist her aid in infiltrating a Nazi spy ring.”
The call to adventure may also take form in the loss of friends and family and other such valuable parts of the Heroes life. This loss of something important to the Hero in ordinary world can set in motion the events, which lead to the transition to the special world, and there fore loss is the ‘Call to Adventure’.
In some stories the ‘Call to Adventure’ may come about as the hero simply runs out of other options.
– “WARNINGS FOR TRAGIC HEROES”
– “Not all Calls to Adventure are positive summonses to high adventure. They may also be dire warnings of doom for tragic heroes. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a character cries out the warning, “Beware the Ides of March.” In Moby Dick, the crew is warned by a crazy old man that their adventure will turn into a disaster.”
Since films usually have more than one level there can be more than one call to adventure.
– “The Call to Adventure is a process of selection. An unstable situation arises in a society and someone volunteers or is chosen to take responsibility. Reluctant heroes have to be called repeatedly as they try to avoid responsibility. More willing heroes answer to inner calls and need no external urging. They have selected themselves for adventure. These gung-ho heroes are rare, and most heroes must be prodded, cajoled, wheedled, tempted, or shanghaied into adventure. Most heroes put up a good fight and entertain us by their efforts to escape the Call to Adventure. These struggles are the work of the reluctant hero or as Campbell called it, the Refusal of the Call.”
The way in which the hero responds to the Call can be just as important as the call itself. The hero may delay the decision or out right refuse to answer the call. This halt on the road before the journey has really started serves an important dramatic function of signaling the audience that the adventure is risky. It’s not a frivolous undertaking but a danger-filled, high-stakes gamble in which the hero might lose fortune or life.
– “It’s natural for heroes to first react by trying to dodge the adventure. Even Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of the Crucifixion, prayed “Let this cup pass from me.” He was simply checking to see if there was any way of avoiding the ordeal. Is this trip really necessary?”
– “Heroes most commonly refuse the Call by stating a laundry list of weak excuses. In a transparent attempt to delay facing their inevitable fate, they say they would under take the adventure, if not for a pressing series of engagements. These are temporary roadblocks, usually overcome by the urgency of the quest.”
By continuously refusing the Call to Adventure the Hero usually encounters some form of tragedy. Continued denial of a high Calling is one of the marks of a tragic hero.
– “ARTIST AS HERO”
– “Another special case in which Refusal of the Call can be positive is that of the artist as hero. W e writers, poets, painters, and musicians face difficult, contradictory Calls. Like many heroes of story, we receive conflicting Calls, one from the outer world, one from our own insides, and we must choose or make compromises. To answer a higher Call to express ourselves, we artists may have to refuse the Call of what Joseph Campbell terms “the blandishments of the world.” “
While many heroes express fear, reluctance, or refusal at this stage, others don’t hesitate or voice any fear. They are willing heroes who have accepted or even sought out the Call to Adventure.
– “Heroes who overcome their fear and commit to an adventure may still be tested by powerful figures who raise the banner of fear and doubt, questioning the hero’s very worthiness to be in the game. They are Threshold Guardians, blocking the heroes before the adventure has even begun.”
– “THE SECRET DOOR”
– “Heroes inevitably violate limits set by Mentors or Threshold Guardians, due to what we might call the Law of the Secret Door. When Belle in Beauty and the Beast is told she has the run of the Beast’s household, except for one door which she must never enter, we know that she will be compelled at some point to open that secret door.”
Sometimes a hero will postpone the Call to Adventure until he has had adequate time to prepare for the unknown territory he is about to enter.
– “In mythology and folklore that preparation might be done with the help of the wise, protective figure of the Mentor, whose many services to the hero include protecting, guiding, teaching, testing, training, and providing magical gifts.”
Movies and stories of all kinds are constantly elaborating the relationship between the two archetypes of hero and Mentor. The development of this bond is seen though out many films.
– “Even if there is no actual character performing the many functions of the Mentor archetype, heroes almost always make contact with some source of wisdom before committing to the adventure. They may seek out the experience of those who have gone before, or they may look inside themselves for wisdom won at great cost in former adventures.”
Some heroes are raised and trained by magical beings that are somewhere between gods and men, such as centaurs.
– “CHIRON: A PROTOTYPE”
– “Many of the Greek heroes were mentored by the centaur Chiron, a prototype for all Wise Old Men and Women. A strange mix of man and horse, Chiron was foster- father and trainer to a whole army of Greek heroes including Hercules, Actaeon, Achilles, Peleus, and Aesculapius, the greatest surgeon of antiquity. In the person of Chiron, the Greeks stored many of their notions about what it means to be a Mentor.”
As Chiron was half man half animal he can be linked to the Shamans and Shape shifters of the tales in many cultures. Chiron is the energy and intuition of wild nature, gentled and harnessed to teaching. Like the shamans, he is a bridge between humans and the higher powers of nature and the universe.
– “AVOIDING MENTOR CLICHÉS”
– “The audience is extremely familiar with the Mentor archetype. The behaviors, attitudes, and functions of Wise Old Women and Men are well known from thou sands of stories, and it’s easy to fall into clichés and stereotypes — kindly fairy godmothers and white-bearded wizards in tall Merlin hats. To combat this and keep your writing fresh and surprising, defy the archetypes! Stand them on their heads, turn them inside out, purposely do without them altogether to see what happens. The absence of a Mentor creates special and interesting conditions for a hero. But be aware of the archetype s existence, and the audience s familiarity with it.”
Once in a while an entire story is built around a Mentor. Goodbye, Mr. Chips, the novel and film, is a whole story built on teaching. Mr. Chips is the Mentor of thousands of boys and the hero of the story, with his own series of Mentors.
Heroes typically don’t just accept the advice and gifts of their Mentors and then charge into the adventure. Often their final commitment is brought about through some external force that changes the course or intensity of the story. This is equivalent to the famous “plot point” or “turning point” of the conventional three- act movie structure. A villain may kill, harm, threaten, or kidnap someone close to the hero, sweeping aside all hesitation.
– “A n example of the externally imposed event is found in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Advertising man Roger Thornhill, mistaken for a daring secret agent, has been trying his best to avoid his Call to Adventure all through the first act. It takes a murder to get him committed to the journey. A man he’s questioning at the U.N. building is killed in front of witnesses in such a way that everyone thinks Roger did it. Now he is truly a “man on the run,” escaping both from the police and from the enemy agents who will stop at nothing to kill him. The murder is the external event that pushes the story over the First Threshold into the Special World, where the stakes are higher.”
As you approach the threshold you’re likely to encounter beings who try to block your way. They are called Threshold Guardians, a powerful and useful archetype. The grim ferryman Charon who guides souls across the River Styx is another Threshold Guardian who must be appeased with a gift of a penny.
Countless movies illustrate the border between two worlds with the crossing of physical barriers such as doors, gates, arches, bridges, deserts, canyons, walls, cliffs, oceans, or rivers. In many Westerns thresholds are clearly marked by river or border crossings.
– “When the hero fully enters the mysterious, exciting Special World which Joseph Campbell called “a dream land scape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials.” It’s a new and sometimes frightening experience for the hero. No matter how many schools he has been through, he’s a freshman all over again in this new world.
The most important function of this period of adjustment to the Special World is testing. Storytellers use this phase to test the hero, putting her through a series of trials and challenges that are meant to prepare her for greater ordeals ahead. The Tests may be a continuation of the Mentor’s training. Many Mentors accompany their heroes this far into the adventure, coaching them for the big rounds ahead.
– “ALLIES AND ENEMIES”
– “Another function of this stage is the making of Allies or Enemies. It’s natural for heroes just arriving in the Special World to spend some time figuring out who can be trusted and relied upon for special services, and who is not to be trusted. This too is a kind of Test, examining if the hero is a good judge of character.”
Heroes may walk into the Test stage looking for information, but they may walk out with new friends or Allies. The Testing stage may also provide the opportunity for the forging of a team. Many stories feature multiple heroes or a hero backed up by a team of characters with special skills or qualities.
– “Heroes can also make bitter enmities at this stage. They may encounter the Shadow or his servants. The hero’s appearance in the Special World may tip the Shadow to his arrival and trigger a chain of threatening events.”
A special type of Enemy is the rival, the hero’s competition in love, sports, business, or some other enterprise. The rival is usually not out to kill the hero, but is just trying to defeat him in the competition.