We’re closing up Act I soon, but we still need to talk about one character who will probably make an appearance somewhere in the beginning of your book.
The Mentor is the person who guides our Hero as they make their way into their story. Often they have been through a similar journey and survived. Usually they are older and wiser. In a Young Adult book, where parents are usually largely absent, the Mentor can be a desperately needed guiding force.
The Mentor represents what the Hero could become, if they make the right choices and stick to their path. In many ways, the Mentor grounds the Hero.
I want to be very clear: not every story has a mentor. It’s okay if yours doesn’t. It still makes sense to spend sometime thinking about mentors today, in case you find that adding this character might enrich your story.
For this lesson, you want to read the “Mentor” and “Meeting the Mentor” chapters of The Writer’s Journey.
There is one assignment this time around.
An Important Introduction
Your Hero will probably either meet the Mentor or realize the Mentor’s importance at a time when they need guidance. Think about Dorothy meeting Glinda the Good Witch of the North just as her house has landed on top of a bad witch in a weird place. Or Harry meeting Dumbledor as he comes to Hogwarts for the first time and really has no idea what how to be a wizard, much less a wizard who survived an attack by the baddest bad guy.
The Mentor probably has a gift to give the Hero, but that gift should be earned. Instead of just telling Dorothy how easy it was to go home, Glinda made her to through a pretty harrowing series of tests. Instead of just putting Harry in Gryffindor, Dumbledor required him to sort it out with the sorting hat.
Sometimes the Mentor is a mess. The Meeting of the Mentor can actually be a junction between the Hero’s story and the Mentor’s, so that the Mentor is required to straighten themselves out to help the Hero–and further their own story. In this kind of story, the reader (and the MC) might not be certain that the Mentor will be able to help at all.
Lastly, your story might have a false Mentor or two. Someone who seems to want to help, and maybe even starts out in a Mentor role, but eventually falls short. Maybe, instead of helping your MC toward the story, they try to stop them from entering that special world. Maybe they have ulterior motives. Perhaps they are a villain in disguise.
One of my favorite mentors is Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler. I even named my cat Freddy after him. Alfred is old and to an outsider he may seem frail. When you contrast him to Batman, a true hero, he might not seem like much. But Alfred raised Bruce after his parents died. And he takes care of all the things that need taken care of so that Bruce can be Batman and do his thing. He offers advice that Bruce Wayne needs, when he needs it.
For this assignment, you’re going to answer more questions. Vogler has a series of questions in his chapter about meeting the mentor that will help you understand this part of the story better.
Open your notebook to a new page, label is MEETING THE MENTOR and answer these questions.
- Who is your MC’s Mentor? Is it someone they already know or someone they will meet in the story?
- Are there any false Mentors in your story? Write a little about them. If they don’t want to help the MC into their adventure, what do they want?
- What is your MC’s code of ethics? What boundaries and rules direct their actions? How do they decide if they are good or bad?
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