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The protagonist refusing the call to adventure vs. the opposite. (1 Viewer)

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ironpony

Senior Member
In my story, which is a crime thriller, and there one thing that often comes up in books on writing, as well as a writing class I took is the protagonist's refusal to the call of adventure.My protagonist is a police detective, who has to take an assignment, the case. But, he could have his boss assign it to him, and he refuses and tries to get out of it, thinking it's BS, for whatever reason...

Or, I noticed how in some James Bond movies, Bond will want to go on an assignment and his boss will not want him to, in which case he will persuade his boss, or even strongarm him until letting him go on it, and the boss will cave in and agree and let him.

There is what way too, which is pretty much the complete opposite, because the protagonist is choosing the call of adventure, but the other characters are refusing it and trying to stop him, as oppose to him refusing the call.So how does a writer know which way is better or what factors have to be taken into consideration when choosing how to kickstart off the protagonist into the adventure? Thanks for any advice on it! I really appreciate it!
 
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luckyscars

WF Veterans
In my story, which is a crime thriller, and there one thing that often comes up in books on writing, as well as a writing class I took is the protagonist's refusal to the call of adventure.My protagonist is a police detective, who has to take an assignment, the case. But, he could have his boss assign it to him, and he refuses and tries to get out of it, thinking it's BS, for whatever reason...

Or, I noticed how in some James Bond movies, Bond will want to go on an assignment and his boss will not want him to, in which case he will persuade his boss, or even strongarm him until letting him go on it, and the boss will cave in and agree and let him.

There is what way too, which is pretty much the complete opposite, because the protagonist is choosing the call of adventure, but the other characters are refusing it and trying to stop him, as oppose to him refusing the call.So how does a writer know which way is better or what factors have to be taken into consideration when choosing how to kickstart off the protagonist into the adventure? Thanks for any advice on it! I really appreciate it!

I am not really sure what your question is...

Refusing the call is one, optional, step in one, optional narrative template ("The Heroes Journey"). It is not the only narrative arc available.

If your character doesn't fit neatly into that mold, you shouldn't shoehorn it in. There are lots of 'hero journey' stories where there isn't a clearly defined 'refusal', at least not one that is particularly significant.

The point of this step in the 'heroes journey' isn't to fulfil some kind of mandatory obligation but to identify what the nature of the journey is. Every journey requires some form of character change. The reason why the refusal aspect tends to be important isn't because the reader requires it but that, without it, you have to identify where the arc begins and ends and how it is to change between beginning and ending. If you don't, you don't have an arc. The character MUST change through the story and, unless the story is some form of tragedy, the typical basic trajectory is to go from some form of 'zero' at the start to some form of 'hero' at the end.

The refusal of the call is one way to highlight the 'zero-ness' of the character, nothing more. If there is another way to highlight them as a zero (this doesn't mean they must be a literal loser/bad person but only that they are 'less' than they will be at the end) then that's fine. It could be that they are very confident but held back by other people. It could be that they are mentally strong but physically challenged, or vice versa. It could be that they are not very confident but are compelled into the adventure by circumstances and adapt accordingly. It could be that they start off very confident but misjudge other factors, which causes their illusions to be shattered which then must be rebuilt 'better'. It doesn't really matter how you tell the story, it just cannot be flat from beginning to end.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay, thanks for the advice on it. Well, the refusal to the call of adventure, I don't think would effect the character's arc in any way I don't think. It's just that a lot of stories have it, and they teach you to use it in a writing class, and they tell you to do it in books, so I thought it was a useful tool therefore. But I guess the main character's arc, doesn't really have anything to do with that though, perhaps, or maybe it wouldn't make a difference on the arc.

One reader told me that she is sick of the refusal to the call to adventure, because it's such a cliche, that you know that the main character is going to change their mind, so what's the point? Does she have a point?

Well he surely can't refuse to do his job if he still wants that job.

Yes it wouldn't be much of a refusal, other than the main character complaining about it for about a minute and then taking it. But other stories have that as well, as the refusal to the call to adventure, such as the movie Blade Runner for example.
 

BrandonTheWriter

Senior Member
In my story, which is a crime thriller, and there one thing that often comes up in books on writing, as well as a writing class I took is the protagonist's refusal to the call of adventure.My protagonist is a police detective, who has to take an assignment, the case. But, he could have his boss assign it to him, and he refuses and tries to get out of it, thinking it's BS, for whatever reason...

Or, I noticed how in some James Bond movies, Bond will want to go on an assignment and his boss will not want him to, in which case he will persuade his boss, or even strongarm him until letting him go on it, and the boss will cave in and agree and let him.

There is what way too, which is pretty much the complete opposite, because the protagonist is choosing the call of adventure, but the other characters are refusing it and trying to stop him, as oppose to him refusing the call.So how does a writer know which way is better or what factors have to be taken into consideration when choosing how to kickstart off the protagonist into the adventure? Thanks for any advice on it! I really appreciate it!

I feel like if he's a police detective it is really easy to write. As opposed to a character who does their own investigating or goes on a whim. You could make it clear that it's between taking the assignment or losing his job. Something like that.

You definitely could write him being reluctant as well but still taking it. I have watched plenty of detective films where there is similar characters with not wanting to take the job but they get thrusted in to it.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay thanks. But there are also detective stories that will do the opposite, where the detective gets the idea for an investigation, but their superior does not want to go along with it, thinking it's a dead end, BS, or too risky, so it's the boss who is resisting the call to adventure that needs to be one over. Movies like The French Connection, Point Break, and Sea of Love do this. So there is that way too, which pretty much the opposite. But how do you know which is better for your story, when choosing?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
There is no steadfast rule. All you need is conflict. Refusal is conflict. In that regard this approach is no different from any other.
 

BrandonTheWriter

Senior Member
Oh okay thanks. But there are also detective stories that will do the opposite, where the detective gets the idea for an investigation, but their superior does not want to go along with it, thinking it's a dead end, BS, or too risky, so it's the boss who is resisting the call to adventure that needs to be one over. Movies like The French Connection, Point Break, and Sea of Love do this. So there is that way too, which pretty much the opposite. But how do you know which is better for your story, when choosing?

I don't think either is better than the other. Whatever suits the story you best want to tell, really.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay. I am just not sure who should refuse. The main character, or his boss. How do you decide which character should be doing the refusing, in order to have conflict?
 

BrandonTheWriter

Senior Member
Oh okay. I am just not sure who should refuse. The main character, or his boss. How do you decide which character should be doing the refusing, in order to have conflict?

It really comes down to you but If I was writing it I'd probably have the main character refusing it. I feel like that's easier to write for conflict. The boss putting an assignment on your main character that he gets thrusted in to.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay. Well another thing is, I am beginning to wonder if the the scene of showing the boss hand the main character an assignment is really necessary. The scene that follows right after, is the main character knocking on a witnesses door, offering to take her into police protection.

If I show a scene before hand of the boss saying, go offer to take this witness into protection, would it be unnecessary, since the reader can infer that that is the main character's assignment when he goes to take the witness into protection anyway? Or is the scene still necessary to have the refusal to the call? But is the refusal of the call even worth having, for a scene that is otherwise unnecessary if that makes sense?
 

estranguerro

Senior Member
If the elements of your story do not change whether the character accepts the call or not, then there's no sense to include it. You can still use that kind of scenario if you want to show that the character has a tendency to refuse what he's told to, and plant that as a Chekhov's Gun where his refusal to do things comes into play at some point in the story so it doesn't come out of nowhere. If it doesn't serve the story in any way, hold it back.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay thanks. Perhaps I don't need a refusal to the call to adventure then, if it may doesn't effect the rest so much, like you said. But, someone still has to come up with the idea for the call to adventure though. In my story, since it's about a cop taking on an assignment, someone still has to come up with the idea for the assignment, even if there is no refusal to the call. Either the main character can come up with the idea for the assignment and get his superior to sign on for it, or the superior can come up with the idea, and give it to the MC. But how do you decide which character should come up with the idea for the call to adventure then, since someone has to come up with it...
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
The main character in three novels of my Extinction series was a pacifist. When he would act against the antagonist he would outsmart them such that their actions went against them. He only acted out physically once, and what he did haunted him afterward.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
Just having your main character not want to be involved in a difficult assignment is enough of a refusal to fit the narrative your looking for.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
That's true. But I am wondering if I should go the opposite and have the main character be the one to come up with the call to adventure, and his boss is the one doing the refusing, who needs convincing, or doesn't like going along with it. As a writer, how do you decide which character should be doing the resisting, between a protagonist, and a supporting character?
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
It would depend wholly on your characters. Some people are go-getters and others are always looking to avoid responsibility. Only you, as the creator of the character, can make that decision.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
It's just that a lot of stories have it, and they teach you to use it in a writing class, and they tell you to do it in books, so I thought it was a useful tool therefore
Forget about these admonitions and rules, for every example of people following you can find one of the opposite point of view that is equally valid.

Rather, don't forget about them, but keep them as the background knowledge of possibilities you have for when you make your own decisions, there is no 'should', only recommendations that you can take or ignore at will.
 
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Sir-KP

Senior Member
If the protagonist has the right to make the call and he refuse, then it would be credit roll afterwards.

There should be a factor that reels him in. Just like Michael Corleone in Godfather 3. The reel-in factor was his nephew.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
What you're talking about is "Push, Pull, Hook".

What pushes the character into action

What pulls the character into action

What hooks the character into continuing to the bitter end

Pull and Hook also applies to the reader.

Use all three according to your story. In some stories, characters will need a lot of push. Some, very little. Once pushed, you need something that pulls the character because at some point, you need your character to engage. Finally, you need something to hook the character to keep the character going in face of all the adversity thrown in their path. If there's no hook, there character will cut their losses and move on go something else. If you have ever run a role laying campaign and don't hook the characters, you know exactly what I mean.

In fact, running a role playing game is a excellent way to learn Push, Pull, Hook.
 
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