I was thinking about the arc of the book and of Risha’s experience going from a nobody to reaching for her destiny. What would it look like? I wrote down the words
on a notebook page and was about to fill them in, when I realized that this didn’t just apply to the first book, but to all three. And not just events, but thematically. What happens to the story and to her as a character?
Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces examined the journeys of heroes of myth around the world, breaking it down into three main stages (and seventeen smaller stages): Separation, where the hero leaves the world they’ve known; Initiation, where they achieve their goal; and Return, where the hero brings what they’ve learned back for the benefit of all.
The way that I imagine a generic science fiction trilogy, our heroine starts the first book as a nobody, then by the end establishes herself as someone to be reckoned with. In the second book, she starts as someone to be reckoned with, then ends the book as not only a heroine, but THE heroine that the ultimate evil must destroy. In the third book, she confronts both her enemy and herself in order to win. Victory may not be what we thought it was, and she may be vanquished in the process as well.
How have others done it?
The original Star Wars saga is a classic example. In Star Wars we meet Luke Skywalker, farm boy, who leaves the world he’s known to help save a princess and the cause of freedom in the galaxy. In The Empire Strikes Back, the stakes are raised. The Emperor realizes who Luke is and puts a bullseye on him: he must be turned or destroyed. Luke finds that becoming a hero is more difficult than he ever thought it would be, and is very nearly defeated. In Return of the Jedi, Jedi Luke defeats the evil inside himself, redeems his father, and destroys his enemy.
Another series that I thought followed a good, thoughtful arc was Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. In Batman Begins, we see Bruce Wayne become Batman. In The Dark Knight, Bruce faces the consequences of his action, and has to ask himself how far he’s willing to go with the path he’s started down. In the Joker he sees a madman who enjoys twisting good into evil, and in Two-Face, he sees a champion of justice willing to throw away the law. And in The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce faces an anti-Batman. Bane is as strong and as smart as he is, and uses the trappings of law to justify anarchy.
The classic fantasy trilogy is, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In The Fellowship of the Ring we see Frodo Baggins leave the world he knows to take up a quest to destroy an ancient evil. At the end of the story, the Fellowship is shattered but Frodo carries on. In The Two Towers, we see Frodo’s friends fighting evil on multiple fronts, while Frodo himself carries on with his quest. Frodo is met by Gollum, the former owner of the Ring, and the evil wretch that Frodo might become if he too falls under the Ring’s power. Finally, in The Return of the King, Frodo is overcome by the Ring’s power, but Gollum’s corruption by it proves to be his undoing, and the Ring is finally destroyed as it and Gollum fall into the hellish fire from which it came.
So what does Risha’s heroic journey look like? I see it going like this:
Book 1 – Become a Heroine – accepting her destiny
Book 2 – Becoming a Princess – there is a price to be paid
Book 3 – Becoming a Queen – finishing what she started
Which breaks down like this:
Becoming a Heroine
Beginning – Finding her way
Middle – Accepting her destiny
End – Striking a blow
Becoming a Princess
Beginning – Enemies retaliate
Middle – Victory is in doubt
End – Finding hope
Becoming a Queen
Beginning – Carrying on
Middle – Redemption
End – Destiny
I cannot begin to tell you how many layers will go into this cake. Only that it will be a lot.
“14 layer cake” from bakerella.com
Used without permission