I got some disappointing news yesterday when someone I was counting on to fund my play contacted me to say that I was obviously not going to reach the crowdfunding goal and that the full amount was too much.
Anyone who writes stories, for any medium, will have come across the Hero’s Journey structure. Adapted by Christopher Vogler from Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces it’s a way of looking at why narratives are so effective, and have been since humans told tales around the campfire.
Here is top Hollywood script consultant Jen Grisani:
“One of the biggest story notes that I give as a story consultant is about understanding the significance of the “all is lost” moment. Your “all is lost” moment is an essential step on your journey and should lead to your achievement. In story and in life, when we hit our “all is lost”, it is the moment when we are as far away as possible from achieving the goal. We hit rock bottom. Our world caves in. In fiction, this moment happens at the end of your second to last act. After hitting rock bottom, a light goes on for the hero. She hits an “aha“ moment that helps her realize what she has to do to achieve the goal. Then, in the last act, she takes an action that leads to the moment that symbolizes her achievement of the goal and character growth.
In life and in story, these kinds of moments are linked. When we take actions toward our goals and hit obstacles, we have the choice of falling victim to the experience or getting up and continuing our mission. In fiction, it is monumental that we understand that the hero’s actions lead to their obstacles, and the obstacles lead to the hero’s point of no return — the “all is lost.” All of this should link back to the goal. We should understand that when the hero hits the “all is lost,” she is as far away from her goal as possible. When story does not work, it’s often because the hero’s goal is unclear so when she gets to her “all is lost,” we don’t feel the “rock bottom” moment and understand how the light goes on for her there, leading to her solution.
By understanding that the “all is lost” moment in fiction and in life is what propels us toward our goal instead of away from it, we can look at our greatest falls in a whole new way. We can see them as a beginning, not an ending. We can recognize their value and know that the very moment we feel farthest from our goal, can lead to our transcendence and awareness of what we have to do to achieve our goal.”
An example from a recent movie, The Martian. Mark’s plants die.
Not all of us are as optimistic or resourceful as Mark Watney. We don’t have skills needed to plant food on Mars, nor do we have the good humor to endure such a hostile place. So when Watney loses his cool, how are the rest of us supposed to deal?
Things seem to be on the right track for Watney, a botanist stranded on Mars. NASA knows where he is and Mark has enough food to last until they arrive. All this changes when Mark’s airlock gets blown open and his crops wither and die. Mark finally hits his breaking point, and in a scene that earned Matt Damon a much deserved Oscar nod, he throws a rare tantrum in the driver’s seat of a rover.
The Martian is all about problem solving. Mark understands better than anybody the importance of problem solving, and prepares to take each of his many obstacles in stride. Up until this devastating hit, his productivity has not slowed. Now it’s come to a seemingly permanent halt.
This sounds familiar! So I’m at a similarly low point at the moment, but will take stock over the next few weeks and see what other avenues are open to me. A good friend told me many years ago ‘When God closes a door he always opens a window, Julie Andrews taught me that.’
Thanks to you all for your continued support and encouragement.