Updated: Aug 16, 2019
The amazing thing about the Intuitive Screenwriting Wheel is that the archetypes actually explain why points in the Hero’s journey represent what they represent. They also explain what the emotional motivations are behind certain stages or at the points of the change between stages.
Let me start with what we know about the Inciting incident, or first turning point in the film, from before. Then I will continue with what the wheel adds to it, and why the Inciting incident is actually the Creator-Orphan stage in the film, that in earlier posts I explained as: “Ray of hope, heart’s desire is born/but the Hero is afraid to become an outcast.”
The inciting incident is the point when a film actually starts; it is the real reason why we enter into the drama. You can also look at it as “the out of the blue moment,” the only point in the story that is happening by pure chance. Usually, something unexpected happens that takes the hero’s life in the direction of the transformation.
I like how Yvette Biro says that the Inciting incident is actually a scandal in a hero’s life, and I’d like to add to that, that it is a sensational point in the story, a moment that you always return to and say, “this is how it actually began,” or “can you believe what just happened?” Usually or ideally this point in the story occurs between 10-12 minutes into the movie – you don’t want to delay it.
Have in mind that this is also the emotional trigger, a hook for the audience to engage – before that point no one is really paying attention.
It can also happen really early in the story, like in the very first minute, as is the case in Whiplash (2014) – when professor and student find each other, make eye contact and Ray of hope, heart’s desire is born. The student of course wants to become a great musician and the professor wants to make a great musician out of him. In short films you don’t want to lose time for the exposition, so you usually start with the Inciting incident right away.
It is good to know that screenwriting theory generally suggests that there are just five ways or combinations to start a story:
Another person enters the hero’s life – romance – (example: usually love stories)
Changed circumstances – drama – (example: losing a job, avalanche…)
Someone or something from the past reenters into the hero’s life – (example: Casablanca)
The hero has a task, something to solve or to fulfill – noir, detective… western (example: someone is murdered)
The hero is sent on a mission – (example: war)
Hero’s Transformation Step by Step:
Inciting Incident: Creator --> Orphan Step on the Wheel
Let me now dive deep into both the Creator and Orphan archetypes on the wheel, since as you know, the Intuitive screenwriting Wheel always gives us insights through polarities, specifically through the Positive archetype and Shadow opposite. And polarity is actually a conversation – energy going back and forth – this is exactly the way to use the wheel in storytelling.
If you can recall, the very beginning of every film is Warrior – Fool, which suggests that the Hero is really suffering and that he needs to heal emotional wounds by transforming his ego. At the same time the Fool archetype, who is also a Trickster, known by his ability to change faces, ask: 'Who do you want to be, now is the time to decide.' Doctor Jekyll or Mr Hyde? Are you willing to let go of the fight? Remember how Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard is driving back to his hometown, when he suddenly has a flat tire and eventually meets Norma, which is where the Creator archetype (Inciting incident) kicks in.
So, what is the Creator positive archetype on the wheel?
In essence, creation “connects the idea of the cosmos born of chaos with the Gift of Love.”
The Creator archetype on the wheel is representing a birth of a story, it activates both storylines (a ‘wish line’ and a ‘need line’) and therefore a conflict.
We can also say that a ‘wish line’ is an ego line and a ‘need line’ is a spiritual journey line. The truth is they both need each other so that transformation can happen.
We don’t have an ego just to bother us, or just to protect us, it is an essential ingredient of the enlightenment journey. Just in the presence of what we don’t need (because it hurts), we realize what we do need.
In the Hero’s Journey outline, this point in the story is the “Call to Adventure.”
It is really a strong ray of hope that can fuel the hero’s consciousness in that moment of the story, with a perfect image that a better life is actually possible, which gives him the strength to go and take his life into his own hands.
But of course, as soon as the hero gets the idea of transforming his life, he also has a projection of what this journey is going to look like. As you probably know from your own life, fear can often kick in. Dark thoughts of failure begin to weaken the hero’s power and deteriorate his determination. “Who can guarantee me that I will succeed?”. “Why me?”, “Am I crazy to think that I can save the world?”, “Everything is just an illusion”, “I failed so many times, who says this time is going to be different?”, “Am I going to have the resources, or help along the way?” These are just some of the fears the hero can have at this point of the story.
But the predominant, core fear is actually the one that we all know very well: once we show that we actually want something more or better for ourselves, our community, our friends, our lovers will reject us, … they will all have their reasons why it is actually better not to go on the journey.
That’s why the hero also thinks once he goes on the journey, he is going to be marginalized. Every hero’s journey is a lonely one; this is the essence of individuation. The Orphan archetype is about relationships and about the balance between the Hero and others, so when we go to the Shadow of this archetype it is about the fear of being alone – being punished by staying alone.
Most people actually don’t do what they need to do because of others, and those who do, follow their dreams despite others. We call them heroes.
In the Hero’s journey by C. Vogler, this part of the film is called “Refusal of the call.”
For both storylines, action (A) and relationship (B), define the Creator/Ray of hope moment and the Orphan part of the story.