The Temptress Archetype

I wrote about “The Lover” archetype in June/July, but there is another type of lover who often pops up along the hero’s journey . . . one who is not nearly as wholesome or helpful.

The Temptress character does exactly what you’d expect: she tempts the hero to do something he should not (sorry for my sexist pronouns—you can reverse them if you wish). She is an obstacle he must avoid—he must “just say NO” and continue on his quest.

This does not have to be about lust or a temptation simply to abandon the quest for something (or someone) else. The Temptress could be a person presenting a differing opinion and offering advice. If this advice is bad, then the character is a distraction/obstacle; if the hero shouldn’t listen, then the person giving the bad advice serves as a kind of Temptress. This character may actually be on the hero’s side—also hoping for the best and honestly believing that what he/she proposes is the right answer.

Perhaps the most interesting temptations are more philosophical. That is to say “the Temptress” is not a person at all, but rather, a “dark call.” Consider those heroes who walk a fine line between good and bad: they want to remain true and good and yet it would be so easy to cross the line and seek revenge. The dark side is tempting because it is easy and it feeds on selfishness. The reason this type of temptress is so common, of course, is that we can all relate to selfish desires and we know that they can be destructive in the long run.

Lets look at some Temptresses in my usual stories:

  • In Major League, Dorn’s wife becomes a temptress when she sleeps with Vaughn (who didn’t know she was Dorn’s wife). Vaughn got played, but he also gave in to his temptation and it cost him. Dorn’s wife uses Vaughn’s weakness (women) against him and thereby gets revenge on her cheating husband, but in doing so, she serves as a distraction for two of the team’s best players right before a critical game.
  • Harry Potter has a few girlfriends in the series before realizing who is “one true love is” and I’m not sure any of the other girlfriends could be considered temptresses as they are all “good” and fight on his side. Now, Ron Weasley, on the other hand, is often distracted by other girls and therefore doesn’t recognize Hermione until late in the series (after Emma Watson grows up and then . . . Wow). So we could argue that Ron is tempted by all kinds of things. Of course, the real temptation in the series is for Harry to either give up or give in to his darker side and seek vengeance. In order to stay true to himself, Harry must resist these temptations.
  • Although the boys in Stand By Me second guess themselves and consider turning back, no one intrudes on their quest until the bullies toward the end—so any Temptress they faced would be some sort of internal one. Could “doubt” counts as a Temptress?
  • I suppose you could look at Michael’s Italian wife (Apollonia) in The Godfather as his Temptress since she “distracts him” from his true love (Kay), though I don’t. First of all, I’d like to think that Michael was truly in love with Apollonia. Even if he wasn’t, the problems he has with Kay upon his return to the states have nothing to do with Apollonia (who dies before Michael’s return). The problems come from Michael’s negative transformation. Michael’s brother Sonny has an affair, and while it hurts his wife, this is not a major point in the story (much more on this in the novel, by the way!).
  • In the film version of Lord of the Rings, Eowyn is (sort of) a temptress for Aragorn, but obviously, in this story the real Temptress is the ring itself! Frodo must resist the ring’s call or else all is doomed!
  • While Batman/Bruce Wayne has had many lovers and temptresses over the years, the one that stands out in both the comics and in The Dark Knight Trilogy is Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul (one of Batman’s greatest foes and the master villain in Batman Begins). Talia shows up in the 3rd film, tricks Bruce into trusting her and even loving her, only to literally stab him in the back.
  • There aren’t enough women in Star Wars. Abrams? Help us out. Okay, so it is interesting to look at Anakin and Padme’s relationship as “Anakin’s evil temptation that leads to his downfall and so much misery” …but the heroes Luke and Leia are born from that temptation and it isn’t Padme’s fault Anakin is terrible. Anakin is the bad guy. Not her. The real temptress in Star Wars (and Harry Potter + Lord of the Rings) isn’t a person, but rather a thing or idea . . . the dark side of the self. In all three of these series, the main characters must resist “the dark side” which will lead to their ultimate doom.
  • James Bond movies are filled with Temptresses. Bond is, let’s face it, a ladies man who is easily distracted by beautiful women. Some of these women are “lovers” in that they help and aid him in his quest, but just as often, they stab him in the back and try to get in his way.
Advertisements

The Turn, Shift, or Twist

A turn, shift, or twist is a welcome element in any form of writing.

In poetry, the TURN or SHIFT is when there is a change in the speaker’s attitude or the tone, possibly leading to a Jerry Springeresque “final thought.” Here is an example: Frank O’Hara’s “Autobiographia Literaria.”

When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out “I am
an orphan.”

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!
Imagine!

So obviously the SHIFT is in the last stanza when the speaker casts away his feelings of isolation and desolation, instead pointing out that he has found joy in writing beautiful poetry (of course, you can interpret that differently—feel free!).

A non-fiction piece can easily incorporate a SHIFT if the author uses contrast, perhaps pointing out all the positives of a situation only to rip the rug out from under our metaphorical feet by then denouncing the subject and citing all of the negatives.

In fiction, we do the same thing, but we tend to call the SHIFT a TWIST (as in PLOT TWIST). If a character takes on a new attitude or something unexpected occurs, thereby changing the story’s established direction, we have our SHIFT/TWIST.

The SHIFT/TWIST is important, of course, because it revitalizes the reader’s interest. After 150 pages of a novel, we’re ready for something new—something that will catapult the story in another direction—forcing the characters to respond or to reveal themselves in new ways, pushing them out of their comfort zones. The twist may raise the stakes, be a kind of reveal (character has tricked or betrayed the hero), whatever. What the twist is doesn’t matter (okay, I’m lying—some twists are definitely better than others . . . but just go with it for now) since it can take so many forms. What matters is that there is one.

Some stories include several twists, and these can be riveting (Dan Brown’s novels come to mind). BUT, just having a twist doesn’t guarantee your story will resonate. I’d suggest checking the following:

  1. Does the twist, even though it is a surprise, still make sense? Having some hint earlier on, even if vague, will help. If a character changes attitude or reveals something, this needs to make sense for that character.
  2. Does it move the story forward? While the twist may include discovering something that happened long ago, this new information should still serve as a kick in the pants to the characters. They need to react, in the present, and move.
  3. Does the twist help establish your theme? Since the twist moves the plot and is important to the characters, perhaps it should be connected to whatever it is your story is indicating about human nature, life, the laws of the universe, etc. So if the twist is a reveal, then perhaps you are working with themes including:
    1. Appearances can be deceiving
    2. Trust (perhaps that trust is hard since people are liars?)
    3. Nothing is as it seems
    4. Ignorance (we don’t know all the important information)
    5. Secrets

Whatever the theme, see if you can make it “pop up” elsewhere in your story.

Good luck!

Crafting Great Sentences

Professor Brooks Landon offers a college level course called “Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft” at The University of Iowa, but this entire course is available on CD or DVD through The Great Courses website (http://www.thegreatcourses.com).

Actually, I found the CD set at my local library.

Predicting that a 12 hour lecture series on writing sentences could only be excruciating, I checked out the series merely to satisfy my skepticism. Not only was I wrong, but the series became a paradigm shifting inspiration that has forever changed the way I write and think about crafting my sentences.

I should mention that, although a literature teacher, I hate studying grammar which, in my opinion, takes all the life out of that which I love. Studying The Great Gatsby’s grammar kills Gatsby more completely than any deranged husband ever could. Thankfully, Landon’s lectures avoid grammar jargon while his passion for excellent writing and his fabulous literary examples are omnipresent.

If you are serious about improving your own writing—no matter the genre— check out this series (at your library or at the website. *Sometimes the website will offer this course at a substantial discount! Check back if it is too pricey right now!).

I’ll give one example of how this course changed the way I write: Landon discusses the concept that we should think about sentences in terms of their suspensiveness: the degree to which the sentence is suspenseful. While some sentences should be short and pack sudden punch, Landon has convinced me that long sentences that unfold, phrase by phrase, word after word, can be the most powerful, descriptive, compelling, and interesting.

Consider this example: “He emerged from the study as one breaking through the frozen lake’s ice, gasping for air, struggling for survival, for the conversation had done more than take his breath, it had hit him in his soul, his mind and sense of identity reeling with that surprising and most fortunate revelation.”

Note that until that last word we have no idea what the sentence is really going to say or where it will take us. The last word truly is a “revelation” because the sentence only comes together once it is divulged. This attribute is what gives the sentence its suspensiveness and keeps us interested in it up until the last word.

Now, for added fun, try substituting out that last word for another and see how it makes us reconsider the entire sentence.

  • Replace “revelation” with “freedom,” for example, and we have to interpret the entire sentence differently because while we don’t know what the conversation was about, we get that the news is good in the sense that it opens things up for him.
  • Replace “revelation” with “humiliation” and we have some idea what the conversation was about.

Some of the very best suspensive sentences make the reader do a kind of whiplash double-take; we are lead in one direction only to have the carpet ripped out from under our feet by the very last word which changes everything that came before.

Unless you are a grammarian, you must still be skeptical about the value of this course. I can’t blame you. After all, I was sure it was something I’d find boring and would never finish . . . until I pressed play and gave it a shot.

WriteOnCon – Great advice on queries, voice, the market, and more.

Writeoncon 2013 has ended, but you can still read all the articles, watch the videos, and get loads of great advice on everything from how to write a great query letter (check out my revised one here), obtaining the right voice for your story/narrater, trends in the market, editing tips, and tons more. Everything is absolutely free, so nothing is stopping you from learning and getting involved.

Check out the writeoncon.com posts and bookmark it. The site may provide future forums for authors to share their own work, critique others, and make valuable contacts in the writing community.

Speaking of which, THANK YOU to all those who critiqued my query and writing sample during the online convention. I made some new friends and received excellent feedback. Before I brave the slush pile, I will revise a bit, concentrating on my voice so that the narration sounds less adult and more in keeping with the Young Adult genre–a bit more intimate and closer to a teenager’s style. Fortunately, as those of you who know me well can attest, I’m ridiculously immature. So I think I can handle the teen voice better than what currently exists in the manuscript. Wish me luck!

FREE online Writing Workshop and Conference next week!

For all you working on a manuscript or query letter, hurry on over to writeoncon.com and post your query and up to the first 5 pages of your novel. Over the weekend, you can read and critique other people’s work while they do the same for yours. The more time you spend reading query letters and other people’s comments about them, the more you’ll learn about writing a great query. And, of course, if you post your own query, you might get some excellent feedback.

And it’s all for free!

On Tuesday and Wednesday, August 13-14, writeoncon.com will host a free online writing conference. Literary Agents and Editors will troll through the queries looking for new writers. You can even win up to $1000 if you enter and win the contests!

Even if you have to work, you can still participate, as the events will be recorded. There is absolutely no reason NOT to check it out.

All you have to do is sign in (which takes about 1 minute) and then you can read posts, comment, post your own work, and take full advantage of everything writeoncon.com has to offer

Stop reading this and check it out!

The Lover “when not a real Lover” Archetype

My brother Andy has correctly pointed out that the Lover doesn’t actually have to be a romantic love. There is evidence of this in the movies I generally use. The boys in Stand By Me form a strong bond with one another that makes them see each other and themselves in a new light. In Skyfall, we see Bond’s humanity after M’s death, so his compassion is revealed there—again, not a romantic love. And what about Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope? Sure, Han has the hots for Leia, but that’s not what gets him to turn around and fight the Death Star in the film’s final act. Han’s transformation was because he found a cause he believed in and a group of people he cared about. It was all of that, not just his interest in the Princess, that made him abandon his mercenary way of thinking.

Andy also brought up the War movie genre in which the soldiers, having gone through hell together, become so close that they will die for one another, thereby demonstrating incredible acts of courage and love. And now that I’m thinking about it, what about guys like Jesus or Gandhi? The love they demonstrated wasn’t romantic—it was universal, and their love was certainly transformative. Heck. Their love was revolutionary!

So Andy’s point is very true.

What matters isn’t whether or not the Lover is romantic. What matters is that the heroes experience some kind of love that is transformative. Love, in any form, causes change, new perspectives, new values, new understanding, new compassion—all of which is essential for any hero.

 

The Lover Archetype

Believe it or not, the Love Interest is vital to any Hero’s Journey and is an essential Archetypal character. While we’re all used to lovers appearing in stories for the sole sake of having a romance element, the Lover does help the hero grow as part of his/her transformation (the most important part of any journey).

So here’s the deal: the Lover helps the hero better understand other people/humanity. By falling in love, the hero is made whole and his/her experience and knowledge base is made more complete. Of course, having a Lover will also give the hero something or someone to fight for (which is why the Lover is often taken hostage or at least the stakes of the quest are connected to the Lover’s future).

In a good story, the Lover does not exist simply to satisfy those members of the audience/readers who like romance. The Lover exists to show the hero new perspectives, open his/her eyes, add to his/her understanding of the world, give him/her someone worth fighting for, and give him/her the promise of a life worth living AFTER the journey is over.

The Lover may only appear in a few scenes. He/she doesn’t have to be a main character.

Before examining the Lovers in my normal movie list, lets consider a hero who does NOT get a lover and what happens as a result: Rambo. In the 1980s, David Morrell created John Rambo in a novel called First Blood  (the character was famously portrayed by Sly Stallone in several films). Rambo is a Vietnam War Veteran who is trained to kill and then released back into the population where he is shunned and lost. Nobody loves him. As a result, he remains a broken killing machine. He never achieves peace or happiness—even when he defeats the bad guys. Now, if Rambo fell in love and someone truly accepted him, helping him get back in touch with his own humanity . . . he might have turned out very differently and would not be nearly as tragic a figure.

  • Major League: Lynn Wells becomes Taylor’s love interest and helps him mature (which is important for him to do). While she gives him motivation to succeed, she also helps him transform into a more mature guy who will be able to find happiness after his baseball career ends.
  • Stand By Me: None of the young boys has a lover. Maybe next year, kids.
  • Harry Potter: Harry’s growing affection for Ginny Weasley serves a few functions. She helps Harry stay focused on what is important (saving the world). She is put in danger giving added motive for Harry to defeat the bad guys. In the end (spoiler alert!), we see that she and Harry marry, have children, and lead happy lives together. While Harry and Ginny spend significant time apart, their relationship is vital to Harry’s growth and eventual happiness.
  • The Godfather: Kay tries to keep Michael on the side of light. Though Michael marries her, he also rejects her values and consequently falls into darkness. If he just listened to his wife. . . .
  • Batman: In Batman Begins, Rachel Dawes is the one who shows Bruce the depth of Gotham’s problems. In a way, she is the Herald for his journey to becoming the city’s savior. It is important to note that Bruce looks forward to the time when Gotham doesn’t need Batman anymore and when he and Rachel can be together. Bruce knows that his life is incomplete without her. This is why her death hits so hard and why he spends eight years in mourning.
  • Lord of the Rings: Aragorn is pretty centered due to his love for Arwen, but he retains a lot of doubt (until the final book/film). She has confidence in him and helps him see and accept his path. Without her strength, he never would have been able to become the King the world needed. In the end, they marry and live happily ever after.
  • Star Wars: Poor Luke. He thought he had a love interest . . . but it was really his sister, so . . . yeah. The love plot goes to Han Solo. Leia certainly helps Han analyze his own character and encourages him to be a true hero rather than a mercenary. Han has to accept his true self (hero) and this never would have happened if not for Leia.
  • Skyfall (James Bond): Bond is the closest hero in my list to Rambo because although he has plenty of lady friends, few are meaningful. Bond uses women and doesn’t let the too close (he got pretty burned in Casino Royale). Generally speaking, the Bond Girls are there for fun and games. In Skyfall, he really has no true love interest though he manages to find a few girls here and there. Instead, we see his love for M (who has become a surrogate mother to him). When M dies, Bond cries, and we see a rare glimpse of his humanity.