Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Narrative mode: #8 The Christ Figure

A traditional narrative plot is the Christ Figure.  It works well with stories which require a hero but follow the version where the hero does not survive the challenge he has to face.

  • There must be a social catastrophe in the making.  
  • Tension should lead up to it with the designated hero a known quantity: always reliable, always there to help others, and yet he will lack belief in himself though he always meets the demands that seem to feel likely to overwhelm him. That's his role in life and he accepts it.
  • Alternate:  He can even be a recognized rogue who is thought of as less then worthy, but that is merely misunderstanding.  He has never met with a challenge that has caught him ethically or spiritually before. No one expects him to be of any use in the conflict that is building.  But something this time drags him in, inspires him.
  • In either case, now society needs someone to rise and meet the danger that is coming to the community. (This can be more personal: one character with a personal tragedy and one hero who doesn't know he can make a difference.)
  • There needs to be subtle change and subtle challenge that will bring the hero into the bout of his life.  Whether he is the recognized do-gooder or the ne'er-do-well, he takes part in the effort to slow the arrival or stop it all together.  He even seems for the moment to have saved them all.
  • However, the challenge has greater complication than anticipated, greater danger.   Here is the greatest tension, for the hero must make a difficult decision.  Never has he had to give so much of himself, never had he expected to. But the hero chooses sacrifice to ensure that the community survives.
  • And survive it does, with the reciprocal challenge of being better than it was, worthy of his sacrifice.  The perfect hero is purer than imagined.  Or if the hero was the less-than-model citizen, then he is glorified, proving that everyone can rise to the finer self.
Tale of Two Cities by Dickens makes use of this narrative.  Sidney Carton, an excessive drinker, flawed to the extreme, faithless, presents himself as promised to be the saving grace for another human being should the need ever be called upon.  Neither his lifestyle nor his philosophy supports this promise.  But the condition he set forth does arrive, and he becomes a savior, giving his life so that another person, more worthy than himself, may live, and in the end, he gains worthiness and personal faith, and those he has sacrificed himself for reach the safe haven he hoped to give.

 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.

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