In Linda Lappin’s article, “Your Journey to Hell and Back,” in the September 2013 edition of The Writer, she returns to Joseph Campbell’s classic text, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, to discuss KATABASIS:
According to Campbell, in myths fairy tales and fictional narratives of mythic resonance, the hero’s or heroine’s descent to the underworld is often preceded by a “call to initiation” and separation from family and home environment. This going down into, or “katabasis” in Greek, entails journeying into the depths of the earth or the depths of oneself. It is a time of solitude and doubt, mourning and danger, anguish, fear, alienation, often estrangement from what we hold most dear: our sense of who we are.
If you’re a writer, and chances are that if you’re reading this, you are, katabasis is not a difficult concept to understand. After all, writers are just “a little different,” aren’t we? The world doesn’t understand someone who may sweat and toil over work that may never see a paycheck. Now, usually that doesn’t completely separate us from our family and friends, but writing always comes down to you, the writer and your work, so that very activity does create a rift between you and the world, if only for a period of time each day. And to be certain, your right-brain creative mind separates you from a left-brain, “logical” world as well.
Instead of dwelling on that as a negative, let’s turn it around and USE it to strengthen your fiction:
Think of a person you know who is VERY tied to a social network and to family and friends. That person LIVES FOR these other people. Then picture a moment where that all comes crashing down. The character learns that she is not the person she thought she was–or maybe a close friend or relative (even a parent) isn’t, and has been living a lie (at least has been telling her one) for YEARS. Her parents didn’t meet the way she thought they did, or they have careers she’s unaware of, or she was adopted, or her best friend is just using her because of her popularity, or the boyfriend she BREATHES has a terrible secret she knew nothing about…
Then write a scene that shows her totally immersed in her “old self,” leading up to the moment of discovery when all that she thought she knew comes crashing down around her.
Coming tomorrow: An important character to create for your protagonist!