Stories have a structure beyond the beginning, middle and end. It’s a structure that goes back to the myths and legends told around campfires. That structure, sometimes called the hero’s journey, is evident in movies as well as books. One of the elements of this structure is The Call to Adventure, also known as the first turning point.
Whatever it’s called at some point early in a story, the hero (male or female) must make a choice. Stay in her safe world or answer the call and venture forth. Without that decision, there really is no story. Does she have a goal? Does she really want it? What is she willing to do to achieve it? Making that decision can be a leap of faith as large as the one Indy makes in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, when he’s about to step out onto the invisible bridge.
In Romancing the Stone, the call to adventure is literally a call from Joan’s sister who is being held captive and only Joan can help. She has to make the choice to go to Columbia or stay in her New York apartment. In Star Wars, the call comes from Obi Wan inviting Luke to learn the ways of the Force. In my book, The Pilot, Celara’s nemesis needs her to find a gangster.
In each situation, the hero says no. Not just, no. A resounding NO. Joan can’t go. She’s scared to leave her apartment. Her publisher/friend tells her she’s not up to it. Luke claims he can’t leave his aunt and uncle. Celara fears the gangster. No way is she going anywhere—especially with Trevarr Jovano, the Coalition Administrator who impounded her ship and cargo and locked her in jail.
But something pushes the hero over the fence. Joan can’t abandon her sister. Luke has no home left, no family. When Celera discovers her brother works for the gangster, she makes that decision. She has to rescue her brother.
So each hero answers the call. And the adventure begins.
Excerpt from The Pilot:
“I would like to make you an offer.” Jovano stared at Celara. “I need to talk to Hallart.”
“You can’t be serious.” Space jocks—including her—took huge detours to avoid running into Hallart’s territory, or his men.
“I assure you, when it comes to Hallart, I am deadly serious.” His piercing eyes gave her pause.
“If you find him—and that’s a big if, Admin Man—you can forget about being serious. You’ll just be dead. Forget it. I don’t have a death wish. I am not helping you find the biggest gangster in the galaxy.”
“In the galaxy? You exaggerate his importance.”
“That’s because you don’t know him. He would kill his own mother if he could make a profit.”
Darkness crossed Jovano’s eyes. His brow furrowed. He probably didn’t believe her so she added, “I heard he did kill his mother. Father, too. And his siblings. Ask him. Right before he rips your heart out of your chest and slices it while you watch.”
“You fear him.”
“Any sane person is afraid of Hallart. So the answer is no. A resounding No.” She didn’t even want to think about associating with criminals like Hallart. Quintall couldn’t be one of them.
When Jovano didn’t continue, she added, “Hallart is into some very bad stuff. He’s a slaver. He runs dust and outlawed weapons. I even heard a rumor he was behind the assassination attempt on the Coalition President last year. She wasn’t the prez yet, but you know who I mean.”
He grew very still. A muscle along his jaw started to twitch. “It is not a rumor.”
“Yeah, well. The assassin missed and offed some unlucky fem who got—” At his fierce look, her voice trailed off. “. . . in . . . the . . . way.”
“Unlucky?” His quiet tone frightened her. “The fem did not just get in the way. She was protecting President Filana.”
Celara shrugged. “Well, you’re Coalition. Guess you’d know about that.”
After staring at her in silence, he said, “Yes. I would know about that.”
What just happened? What caused such a look of desolation in his eyes?
“I want you to put me in touch with your brother.” His voice had returned to its natural timbre, almost conversational, and Celara thought she had been mistaken about what she’d seen in his eyes a moment before. “He is a sure way to contact Hallart.”
Jovano was wrong. He had to be.
She shook her head. “I don’t know where he is.”
“If I can find him, will you help me?”
At first she started to refuse, but if they could find Quintall, she could talk to him, find out if what Jovano claimed was true. And if it was, she would convince Quintall to give up the dangerous life, convince him to leave Hallart.