Posted by: Alastair Rosie | August 19, 2012

Part Two: The Call To Adventure



The second stage is appropriately called The Call to Adventure where our hero receives a summons from a Herald to embark on an adventure. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins entertains the dwarves and the herald, Gandalf, from whom he hears stories of treasure. In other stories however the call to adventure is a little more reluctant. Sarah Connor in Terminator is virtually yanked into the adventure after about fifteen minutes of footage when the terminator tries to kill her.
The call to adventure is where you introduce the challenge, prize, or threat and it can be any one of those three or a combination. A detective who is called to a murder scene receives her call to adventure when she begins to study the body. Her ordinary world has been thrown into disarray, there is a murderer out there who will go free if she doesn’t find him. In this type of call it might be one she gets on a regular basis if you’re writing a series. This kind of call is a challenge and a much greater threat that could even threaten her life.
Other calls like in the Lara Croft series or King Arthur have treasure as the call, the first example will enhance Lara’s reputation, the second will restore the kingdom.
In the third type we have the threat, Sarah Connor as already mentioned, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code issues the call in two forms, the first is more of a challenge when he is shown the photograph but the second is far more urgent when he discovers that he is the prime suspect.
There can be several calls to adventure issued one after the other to the main character or to different characters and these can operate on different levels. Manda Scott’s Dreaming the Hound is a classic example of multi-layered story telling. The first call comes in the first pages when Breaca (Boudica) kills a Coritani warrior, another comes when her brother, Ban adopts a sickly pup, Hail and has to raise it himself. Yet another comes when Breaca’s tribe, the Iceni receive overtures of peace from Cunobelin of the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni. He is a powerful warlord who wants to secure his northern border in the event the Romans land in the north perhaps. We have a very reluctant call when Ban attacks one of Cunubelin’s sons, Amminios and is forced to promise his favourite horse to repay the insult. This will be brought south when Breaca and her father, Gunovic seal the peace treaty with Cunobelin in a few months time. There are other calls leading up to the invasion a few years in the future but all are clearly defined calls.
But whether you issue the call by way of a challenge, prize or threat, it is usually issued as early as possible. One trap to avoid is building your Ordinary World for so long that we fall asleep. When the call is issued we are hooked and in the publishing world it is actually called the Hook, the event or scene that hooks you. There is something that happens to the hero or one of their friends that makes us want to read more. With Titanic, Jack gets two calls, the first is winning the tickets to America, the second is when he sees Rose for the first time and admires her from a distance. She becomes the secondary prize perhaps, but soon she will become the main prize as he is drawn into her world.
The person who issues the call, the Herald can be an ally, a messenger, or an enemy. In Terminator the Herald is Rhys, a messenger who becomes an ally and later the father of her child. Other times the Herald might be an enemy, the evil stepmother in Snow White is one example. In crime stories the criminal is the Herald and the crime is the manner in which the call is issued. The call however must be given out or you will lose the reader as you build the Ordinary World. Cut the fluff, prune the tree and let your hero go forth on their challenge.
So what is the call to adventure in your story? Has it been issued yet? Is there more than one call to adventure?

Other examples of the Call to Adventure.

Frodo taking the Ring out of the Shire in The Fellowship of the Ring
The disappearance of Charlotte Gray’s lover in Charlotte Gray.
The summons from the Vatican in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.
Bella’s curiosity about that new boy, Edward in Twilight.

Written by Alastair Rosie


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