My Quest is a month old, and I’m starting to get discouraged. I have done more writing than I was doing before I started, but the scope of what I’m trying to do seems too great. I’m standing on the Threshold, peering into the Abyss, and I don’t feel up to the Challenge.I decided to take a look at the Hero’s Journey, and see what Joseph Campbell has to say about it. And then it occured to me; the Hero is always unworthy when he receives the Call to Adventure. Daniel Russo in the Karate Kid was a whiny, irritating high school kid who was taking his lumps at the hands of the quintessential 1980’s bully, Johnny, and his boys before he met his Mentor, Mr. Miyagi.
The Mentor figure in literature first appeared in The Odyssey; Mentor was Odysseus’ older friend whom he left to guide the Hero’s son, Telemachus and watch after his affairs. And, while I question the trustworthiness of Mentor (he allowed Odysseus’ home to be overrun by sleazebags in togas so they could sexually harass his wife), he did impart wisdom.
These days, Mentors are perceived to be experienced, often older characters that teach the Hero and/or provide a Supernatural Aid in their Quest. It also is extra cool if the Mentor has a mysterious Beard. Not sure why, but it’s true. If you doubt the mystical power of the Beard, check out this website. No, this site is not a joke.
After meeting Mr. Miyagi, Daniel was still whiny and irritating (the Mentor’s powers are limited, apparently), but he had been given Sacred Knowledge, Wisdom, and the Supernatural Aid (Karate). Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel not only how to fight, but when, and how to walk away. He also taught him the deadly but predictable Crane Kick. I still don’t understand how Johnny just walked into that.
My favorite mentors include:
Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: I like the idea that I will run away from home with a weird, old hermit that my foster parents forbid me to talk to. Stranger Danger!
He gives Luke the Supernatural Aid (the Force) as well as a Lightsaber, an elegant weapon from a simpler time.
Abbé Faria from Count of Monte Cristo: Faria was based on a real priest, a Goan Roman Catholic monk who was one of the pioneers of the study of hypnotism, following on from the work of Franz Anton Mesmer. A priest with hypnotic powers? Stranger danger!!!
Faria was a direct prototype for Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s butler and Mentor, as well as countless others.
Gandalf, from The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf was a wizard, in the Merlin mold, and had the most spectacular flowing white Beard you ever saw. It looked so soft, like you could just nestle up and wrap it around you like a blanket and take a nap.
Honorable, non-Bearded mentions include:
- Mickey, Rocky Balboa’s crusty, Irish trainer
- Morpheus, from the Matrix
- Mr. Keating from Dead Poet’s Society
The point is, the Hero must encounter key characters that help to empower him/her for the perilous and difficult Journey before he is prepared to enter the Abyss and face Monsters. There are Mentors as well as other Helper characters that assist the Hero.
I need direction. I need a Mentor (or Mentors)!
Since real life is not like a book or film, I’m going to have to seek out this Individual or Individuals. They aren’t going to magically show up, bearing Wisdom and Weapons. There are a number of ads online for professional screenwriting guidance, but it can be pretty expensive. I certainly will revisit this option as my drafts become more mature.
For now, I’ve decided to join a couple of local writing groups, attend some workshops, and possibly enroll in a course at the local college. I hope the teacher (a successful screenwriter) has a Beard… I sincerely do. It’s kind of a dealbreaker if he (or she) doesn’t.
I’m hoping to find a Mentor, as well as other Helper characters. Perhaps one of these individuals will bestow the Supernatural Aid that will help me Overcome the Giant. I just may want to be careful how I advertise, because the title of this post looks conspicuously like a profile for an alternative lifestyle dating site.
It doesn’t matter what your Adventure is, a Mentor is a key piece of the puzzle for any Hero. The lesson is clear: we don’t have to do it all on our own.