A blog about writing and all things story…
Recently I made a promise I wasn’t able to keep. I promised Gloria Kempton I’d read her new book, The Outlaw’s Journey, by next week and let her know what I thought about it. Sounds easy, right?
In keeping my promise to read, the problem came by the end of chapter one. Instead of reading Gloria’s book, her book inspired deep
story insights for my novel and instead of reading, I kept writing. After chapter eight, I had 36 pages of notes for my book, never mind hers. You can see my difficulty.
First, you should know that Christopher Vogler who generously wrote her FIVE-PAGE forward said that Gloria had created another heroes journey archetype, the Outlaw. How exciting is that! I related to this archetype for not only my hero, villain and other characters, but for many people I’ve known in life; one of my brothers, an ex-husband, two ex-business partners and so many more. Understanding an outlaw mentality clarified some things for me that needed clarifying. Enough said.
Though Gloria’s intended audience is writers behind bars, I think, no, I know that just like Stephen Covey’s 7-Habits of Highly Effective People isn’t just for business people, it’s for everyone, Gloria Kempton’s thought provoking, inspirational and educational The Outlaw’s Journey, A Mythological Approach to Storytelling, is for all writers; novelists, memoir, non-fiction, short story, or journal writers. Heck, all writing is a lone process regardless of where you sit; office, café, kitchen table, garage or prison cell –alone is alone, right?
The Outlaw’s Journey (TOJ) – I’m using TOJ because OJ was just too ironic – Anyway, it’s a book and workbook based on The Hero’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (Based on the work of Joseph Campbell) intended for use within a program designed for prisoners, but is a helpful tool even as a self-paced program. And by ‘program’ I mean read the book and do the assignments. Or don’t do the assignments; you’ll still be a better writer by the end.
In TOJ Gloria asks participants to approach their story and character creation with integrity, honesty, and introspection and invites them to go on the journey of a lifetime. This journey to writing their own (prisoners) story (fiction or non) ultimately shines light on when, where, why and how they may have taken a wrong turn in life – I too, had some personal epiphanies here. Asking prisoners, (or ourselves) to examine life choices; actions, the people we surround ourselves with, etc., leads to a greater awareness of our interior landscapes. The better you understand yourself and your world, the better a ‘teller of tales’ you become.
In story creation, we need to understand why our characters are important, what their archetype and purpose is; Hero, Herald, Threshold Guardian, Mentor, Shape-shifter, Trickster, Shadow, Ally, etc., and how they inform the story and are transformed by the end. Sounds simple, but it isn’t without help. With outlines, archetype explanations, and a gentle guide, TOJ is that help.
Every story needs a hero and anti hero; Outlaw. REMEMBER, without the shadow (dark characters) your hero has nothing to push against – no drama, no story.
Understanding the Outlaw Archetype is defined in detail on page 27, including a sidebar (like Cliff Notes) that contains; Motto: Rules are to be broken –Strategy: To disrupt, destroy or shock – Fear: to be powerless, trivialized, and so on…. If you’re writing fiction (or non) this will bring your story to life, and give your readers a satisfying journey.
In each chapter is a reminder in the sidebar of what the character archetype traits are; Very helpful!
In some TOJ assignments like asking writers (prisoners) how they FEEL about others, or how they think others FEEL about them, helps them relate to others (which, I’m guessin’, some may have a problem with), and is a step toward creating a better human being, and a better writer. Writers who can’t imagine how someone else feels, remain stuck –their writing in permanent stasis –their characters a mere reflection of themselves. Boring. Trust me; the assignments in TOJ are for everybody.
What is the inner most cave? What is your hero’s fatal flaw? What does your villain desire? You must know these answers.
Gloria writes that (I paraphrase) ‘your call to adventure, on some level was a choice that landed you in prison.’ She also says things like, “Don’t get thrown in the hole” which made me laugh out loud. Now my husband says “I’ll throw you in the hole!” Of course that’s only funny because it’s not my reality. While reading TOJ I developed a greater understanding of and more empathy for writers behind bars and the unique challenges they face. Gloria addresses these challenges with empathy, not sympathy –the expectation of accountability and transformation.
Asking criminals (and writers who haven’t been locked up yet) to think outside of themselves to create characters with dreams and longings, goes a long way in learning to empathize with others –a long way in creating compelling characters or simply understanding life. Understanding archetypes makes things fall into place, creating an understandable order out of chaos in life and in story. Understanding the archetypes in my story helped me create a more compelling narrative.
For those of us not enrolled in the official Outlaw’s Journey program, it’s still an excellent book and or self-paced course. The Outlaw’s Journey is really a journey we all take; some just go a bit deeper into that dark tunnel than others, that’s all. Some hero’s CALL TO ADVENTURE is on the other side of the law, their family, their job, church, society. They’re all journeys. Some famous writers and poets wrote tales from within prison walls; Oscar Wilde, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jack London to name but a few.
TOJ covers everything from choosing genre, to developing characters, the hero’s COMPLETE journey –to marketing and writing and publishing resources. It’s a writer’s one stop shopping resource.
If you want to create a dynamic story, fix the one you’ve got or just plain garner a deeper understanding of your outlaw, be it your inner self, your protagonist or antagonist, or frankly just about anyone in your life. This book is that good – it’s a writer’s guide and therapy wrapped up in 186 pages; The Outlaw’s Journey
Gloria teaches frequently. Check her out currently at Writers online workshops.
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