You probably had a favorite legend as a child. The heroes and heroines of legends blend seamlessly with the supernatural, a jump made easily by the very young. Legends vary in structure, but most often the hero is called to adventure but resists until a supernatural power visits him and shows him why he must go. The hero ventures forth, fighting one battle after another until he wins his quest. He returns home a master of himself and the supernatural. He uses his power to help others.
Legends live on because we relate to the archetypical traits of their heroes. You’re drawn to a particular hero because the virtues you admire in him lie within you. This forms a powerful energy between you and a mythic character. Should you decide to create a character based on that hero, you’ll feel that heroic part of yourself stirring and inspiring your creative mind. Your protagonist doesn’t have to be a super hero. He or she might be a single mother juggling work with raising kids or an erudite detective being constantly outwitted by the criminal he chases. Attribute your protagonist with some of the hero’s strengths and some of his weaknesses; they all have those. Invent your character’s call to adventure, aka the inciting incident.
Unless you’re a fantasy or sci-fi writer, the visit by the supernatural does not have to literally be a supernatural entity. The supernatural is the heroic virtue within your protagonist. This could be awakened by a remark made by a close friend or a passing stranger, by a passage in a book or a lyric in a song. These words land on the protagonist’s inner hero with the precision of a dart on a bull’s eye, and the resonance of the message lingers on until he can no longer ignore his call to adventure. Once your protagonist ventures forth, he will undoubtedly become fatigued and disheartened by the many hurdles he has to jump to win his quest. This is when his heroic virtue arises in full glory and guides him to the end. Once home, the protagonist views his previous problems through the prism of his heroic self.
I write by this quote: ‘Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.’ –Rumi
A major character in my new novel Written in Ruberah: Age of Jeweled Intelligence is from an old Cornish legend about Tamara and the giant brothers Tavy and Tawridge. In my next blog I’ll share how I got inside Tamara’s head and where her legend took me.