Last week I talked about the Ordinary World, sometimes called the slice of life, and basically sets up the day to day existence for the hero before they begin their journey. Today, I’m going to be talking about the first step of their journey, the call to adventure. This is when everything changes.
Joy and Sadness are sucked into the memory tube.
Elsa runs away and freezes everything, so Anna must go find her.
Ralph is challenged to get his own medal.
Sometimes this moment is also called the inciting incident. My favorite example is from Hercules, because you see his longing to leave the ordinary world and since he doesn’t refuse the call, it’s a very simple transition. Also the entire call to adventure is featured in song form, which makes it extra fun :D.
But sometimes heroes refuse the call to adventure and decide to stay home so the plot rises up and forces them on the journey through some other means. For example: In Big Hero Six, Hiro’s call to action is to go to Nerd School (it’s important to note the call to adventure is often a false promise or a deceptively simple task that turns into something much more complex than ever imagined), but when he does get in, the entire accomplishment is fraught with so much tragedy that he doesn’t go. He stops inventing, he stops everything until Baymax notices his nanobots are behaving strangely and forces Hiro into an investigation.
Spiderman doesn’t go after the thief, is instantly and swiftly punished for ignoring the call, and goes on to fight crime.
Aang runs away from his responsibilities as avatar and ends up frozen for a hundred years and wakes up to see the consequences of his inaction.
Simba refuses his call to adventure when Nala first approaches him. It takes being beaten by Rafiki and guilted by his dead father before he realizes he can’t hide anymore. It’s my favorite example of refusal of the call because the consequences are there and laid out. He knows people are suffering because of his refusal (I refuse to acknowledge the argument that his initial refusal was when he ran away in the first place. All that would have done is gotten him murdered) but his refusal is articulate and intentioned and so utterly painful that you feel for him the entire speech.
Accepted or refused, once the hero responds to the call to adventure, they are transported from the ordinary world into the extraordinary world and everything changes.