Posted by: Alastair Rosie | October 13, 2012

Part 9: Seizing the Sword

SEIZING THE SWORD

First and foremost, apologies for not getting this blog out last week. I had other writing duties that took up most of my time but we’re back on track now I hope! The other week we looked at The Ordeal, which leads up to seizing the sword or gaining the reward. So what’s all this about swords when you’re writing a vampire romance? Does it mean you have to conjure up a magical sword for your vampire?
On the contrary, seizing the sword or gaining the reward is what your story is ultimately about. In a modern rendering of the Grail Quest, The Da Vinci Code, Sophie questions Teabing and Langdon about the grail, “is it some magic dish?” Teabing who plays the part of the mentor reveals that it is not a dish, it is the record of Jesus’ descendants, the Royal Bloodline. This sets Langdon, Sophie and Teabing off on a Grail Quest. Teabing is a Changeling or Shapeshifter because he is both Mentor and Dark Shadow. The grail in Da Vinci Code was ultimately more powerful and potent than a magic dish because it had the power to destroy the church’s authority on Earth.
With other Grail Quest stories such as Romancing the Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy, Tomb Raider, and National Treasure, the grail is much more tangible and something you can actually take with you. It can have the ability to benefit mankind or to destroy mankind like the Triangle of Light in Tomb Raider. In Hope Floats, Birdee must recover her dignity and win the love of her daughter. Her grail quest is less tangible and involves the journey within.
But gaining the reward or seizing the sword should be the ultimate goal and you may only have a vague idea as to what the reward will be for your hero or heroes when you first start out but eventually it must be revealed. In Notting Hill it’s union with the other and being reborn. With the movie Entrapment it’s billions of dollars, after all they’re both thieves. The reward doesn’t have to be something noble and beneficial. Ocean’s Eleven and the sequel movies were all heist movies along with A Fish Called Wanda. Here the reward is just getting rich, and hopefully getting away with it as well.
The reward is the goal. In a hundred metre sprint the goal is the finishing post and hopefully you’re the first one past it. So whether you’re writing a thriller, fantasy, science fiction, romance, comedy or any other genre you need to have a goal. Think of writing a novel as setting out on a journey. Unless you’re the gypsy type you need to have a goal. A trip from Glasgow to London can be a straight line journey on the train or you might deviate to Cardiff, Belfast, Dublin, New York or Paris but ultimately the goal is London. That is your grail, the reward and without an ultimate purpose you will stagnate and the work will become tedious and heart breaking because you don’t have a goal.
John Dunbar’s goal is to live out his life as a Lakota warrior but his false grail is the diary, because when he goes back to retrieve it his horse is killed from under him, the wolf he befriended is killed and he nearly loses his life. In the end however this causes him to adjust his goal because he knows he has to return to white society with his new wife and try to negotiate a peace between the Lakota and the whites.
Selene’s goal in Underworld is to save Michael who has suddenly come to mean so much more than before. To accomplish this she will have to stand against her vampire father, Victor and in the end kill him. Bella’s goal is simple survival and to remain with Edward. Sometimes the goal isn’t achieved as in Titanic. Rose loses Jack forever but what he has taught her will remain with her forever as we see in the photographs by her bed. The crew of the salvage ship will never see the Heart of the Ocean because Rose drops it off the side of the boat. In the movie Outbreak the goal is to find the chimp that has the virus in its DNA so that they can manufacture an antidote and save the town from being obliterated by the government. In Shawshank Redemption the goal is to escape from prison but the reward is the diary which Andy takes with him and posts to a newspaper, which brings the law down on the warden. The grail was the diary and perhaps the money belonging to the false identity the warden had ordered him to set up.
In Pelican Brief, the reward is discovering proof that Victor Matisse was involved in a cover up, which was in turn ignored by the White House with the president actually telling the FBI to ignore the Pelican Brief and focus on ‘real suspects.’ The president is thus faced with the news that he will never be re-elected now that his part is known.
The Reward comes after the Ordeal in most cases and comes about because your hero has survived death or a horrible disgrace. She has saved the victim in Silence of the Lambs, destroyed the Death Star in Star Wars, or faced up to her ex husband in Hope Floats. The rewards can be tangible and something you can hold in your hands or a new perspective on life, self realisation, honour, public recognition of your hero’s bravery. We reward our heroes in war time for their deeds of valour. So what rewards await your heroes?

Other examples of rewards:
The death of the shark in Jaws.
Winning the wager in Around the World in Eighty Days.
Killing the emperor in Gladiator. Remember that the emperor was a living god and killing a demented god is an ancient plot device.
Throwing the Ring of Power into the fires of Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Here we have disposed of the thing that looks to be a reward because it would destroy the world.

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Responses

  1. This is great, Alistair. Thanks for sharing 😉


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