Friday, August 15, 2008
3. The parting from everything you ever knew.
Vogler would call this phase of a story "Accepting the call to adventure." So again we have a structural element at work, not a cliché. It's the way this is done that can make it cliché.
A call to adventure that involves a main character gathering up a group to travel together on a quest for a powerful object that will save the world is cliché. Most agents and editors use this specific scenario as one of their reasons to automatically reject a submission.
A variation of this is the fish out of water story, which is an acceptable story element. It shows the contrast of who the character is against a backdrop of foreign surroundings. It's more common than the traditional quest, but more acceptable and not considered cliché because there are so many ways to go about it. I think Neil Gaimon's NEVERWHERE is a perfect example of the fish out of water story as main character Richard Mayhew is suddenly transported to London's secret fantasy underground. The characters are fabulous! There's Dorothy in Oz, of course, and in non-fantasy you have any story that takes a character out of his ordinary world and gives him a challenge to reach a goal. The very definition of story itself.
Does the character in your story answer a call to adventure? Does he or she leave the ordinary world to accomplish a goal? Do you consider this cliché?