Kristin Lenz is a social worker and writer who blogs at YA Fusion with a group of YA authors. Please stop by and share her good news - she recently signed with an agent! And she has an ARC giveaway to celebrate. But first, here's her tip:
In May, I attended a wonderful SCBWI conference. Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and both Ohio chapters joined forces to host the Wild, Wild Midwest Conference. We had many, many choices of workshops with authors, agents, and editors, and I attended three with Kendra Levin, an editor at Viking.
I had always planned to study more about The Hero's Journey and Archetypes (Joseph Campbell's books are often recommended by editors and writing instructors), and that was the focus of one of Kendra's workshops. Usually, I understand the Hero's Journey when it's applied to a fantasy like Harry Potter, but it's trickier to apply to a contemporary, realistic story, which is mostly what I write.
If you've studied these archetypes, you'll remember the Hero, the Mentor, the Allies, the Shadow, etc., and Kendra helped us apply these roles to characters in our own stories. My biggest take-away from her talk was to remember that other characters need to have their own story, not just your protagonist. It's not enough to simply be a sidekick best friend - what is their journey?
It's not enough to have a villain who is all evil and bad; Even the Shadow sees himself as the hero of his own story. And it was enlightening to realize that I had intuited much of this into my revisions already, deepening the story. I even realized that I had created a Shapeshifter character - someone who seems to be one thing, but turns out to be another.
I think that's the best way to apply these lessons - intuitively. Study and understand the Hero's Journey, but don't try to follow it rigidly like a plot prescription. And that led right into Kendra Levin's other workshop that I attended: Intuitive Revision. Here's a great post from Writer Unboxed that elaborates on Why the Hero's Journey is a Tourist Trap.
At YA Fusion, I have an ARC giveaway of All the Truth That's in Me, a YA novel that was edited by Kendra Levin at Viking. After attending Kendra's workshops, I had high expectations for this book - you're going to be impressed too! Good luck on your writing journeys-