Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hero's Journey: Leap Year

When I posted the Hero's Journey Template, I really wanted to provide a real-life example to explain the whole concept, not just provide the template. However, I drew a complete blank of any story's hero's journey, flipped through The Writer's Journey a dozen or so times, and hit "Publish Post" when my stomach told me I was simply wasting time on lackluster brain cells that obviously needed fuel.

Today, I'd like to finish that post with this one, a true breakdown of a hero's journey, using the movie Leap Year as the example (since that's the most recent movie I've seen). As bonus credit (for me), this little exercise is the first of many to help me study my craft and improve my own work. If anyone wants to submit their own hero's journey breakdown (or link to one), I'd love to see it. I've determined that it's time for me to focus a little more on my own writing education...but that's a different post.

Warning: this post is going to be a huge spoiler if you've not seen Leap Year yet.

Hero's Journey: Leap Year

I didn't include this in my template, but every good story includes a main character (or several) with two struggles, one internal and one external. Here, Anna's external struggle is getting herself to her boyfriend's side so she can propose; her internal struggle is determining if she really wants the life she's so determined to wedge herself into.

Ordinary World: Anna, the main character, lives in Boston in her very organized and structured life with her boyfriend of four years.

Call to Adventure: Anna wants to be married. She thinks her boyfriend is going to propose.

Refusal of the Call: Anna waits for her father in a bar, a barfly proposes, Anna refuses. I'm a little fuzzy on this step. Either her refusal here to just get married (which is her goal) is the refusal, or the fact that when her boyfriend doesn't propose, she doesn't say anything and lets him leave is her "refusal" to act.

Mentor: Her dad, who drops on screen long enough to tell the tale of Anna's grandmother, who proposed to her grandfather on February 29, citing an old Irish tradition about leap years and women proposing.

Crossing the Threshold: Anna decides to do the proposing and hops on a plane to Dublin, Ireland, where her boyfriend is currently at a conference.

Tests and Trials: Everything travel related that could go wrong, does. The plane is grounded in the wrong airport, the bus takes her to the ferry terminal right after the last ferry braves the storm, the boat she hires can't make it to Dublin and drops her off in a town a day's drive away, the taxi she hires rolls into a river, etc.

Allies: Declan, the taxi driver turned love interest
Enemies: the inn owners who won't allow unmarried people to stay the night, mother nature herself

Approach of the Innermost Cave: At a wedding they crash, Anna finally lets go of her urgent rush toward Dublin and decides to wait out the wedding for a ride from the pastor. Her self-centeredness is stripped away, and we see Declan's troubled past for the first time. She and Declan have a few quiet moments, one in which they almost kiss, and Anna recognizes the good traits in Declan. They are united, ending up sleeping the night together on a bench by the bus station and setting out together for Dublin the next morning, a united group with a "we're in this together" mentality.

Ordeal: Anna must choose between Declan, a man who has stood by her side through all the movie's trials, who has shown her kindness and a different side of herself than she's experienced before, and who respects her and treats her like a good friend, and her boyfriend, a man who takes her for granted, but who has everything she thinks she wants...including a ring.

Reward: She accepts her boyfriend's ring and is finally engaged.

Road Back to Ordinary World: Anna and her boyfriend return to Boston, to their new amazing apartment and her best friend who seems all the less friend-like after seeing the kind people along Anna's journey. She has everything she should want, and her life is once again very orderly and organized.

Resurrection: A ring and being engaged did not fill the void that she expected it to. When she pulls the fire alarm in her apartment and has to pick the item she would take (a question proposed to her by Declan during their trek to Dublin, and a question she previously couldn't answer), there is nothing in all her possessions or life that she needs. Nothing she would take from a burning building. What she needs is clearly not in her ordinary world. (Also, there's a nice juxtaposition here between Anna, who looks around and sees nothing worth taking, and her boyfriend, who is so preoccupied with grabbing up all his electronics, finding everything in their material world to be of worth. Of course, there's also the obvious point that he doesn't even worry about Anna during this fire scare; he's much to preoccupied with himself.)

Return with Elixir, Two Worlds Combined: The two worlds combining is very literal here: American Anna goes to propose to Ireland Declan. He has everything she wants; he is what she would want to have safe from a burning building. He is the man she loves, and she returns to him with the idea of building a solid relationship together, not striving to achieve a status symbol of marriage. Of course, by accepting that the person and their daily life together are more important than the ring and all her previous possessions, Anna gets her original desire, and Declan proposes marriage. Anna now has the best of both worlds. There's even a short scene where Anna shows she's no longer over-controlling her life and not as obsessed with her material items as she and Declan drive off on their honeymoon.

1 comment:

Toni said...

Just wanted to thank you for this particular blog. I just recently saw Leap Year and have been analyzing it according to the hero's journey in order to help me in my own quest to write a screenplay. I was having trouble and so I googled to see if anyone had done it, and couldn't believe it when I found your blog. Great job. Regarding the refusal of the call step that you thought was a little fuzzy, I hadn't thought of your analysis here. Perhaps you are correct. My thought was that Anna refused the call when she was at first unaccepting of the whole Leap Year tradition even though it is somewhat out of order. Your analysis of this step is interesting to think about. Thanks again.