Episode 38: The Journey in Literature

On April 13, Kasie and Rex welcomed poet and novelist Derek Berry into the studio. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

Rex Hurst, English Instructor, fiction writer

Derek Berry, Writer, Poet

Theme for the day

The use of a Journey in Fiction & Poetry


  • Getting to know Derek Berry
  • Travel in fiction: The Hero’s Journey, the Quest
  • The hero’s journey as a metaphor for the writer’s journey
two person walking on pathway between plants
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Segment 1

From Derek’s website: 2018-2019 Poet in Residence at East Aiken School of the Arts, Co-Founder of Charleston-Based literary non-profit The Unspoken Word, and author of the novel Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County and poetry chapbook Skinny Dipping With Strangers. Editor of The Good Juju Review, an anthology of Lowcountry poets, and co-host of your own podcasts: Contribute Your Verse and Digressions. (Links take you to purchasing opportunities)

Tell us about The Unspoken Word. What kind of work does it do? Where did the idea come from? What need is it filling in Charleston and SC?

Tell us about The Good Juju Review. Why Lowcountry poets? How often is it published? How can our Beaufort, Charleston, Georgetown listeners submit?

Segments 2 & 3

Today’s topic is our part two from last week’s discussion about travel as a way to break out of Writer’s Block and discover new stories. We talked about traveling for discovery, connection, love, fear, and transformation. And we talked about long journeys like hiking the Camino or the Appalachian Trail and how those journeys are real-life Odyssey-like stories.

The Journey is another of the Seven Basic Plots from our resource by Christopher Booker. According to Booker, there are two kinds of story journeys:

The Quest is the idea that far away lies a priceless goal, a prize of some kind, and only by obtaining it can the hero fulfill his or her destiny. The Quest is Homer’s Odyssey and Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s The Lord of the Rings and Treasure Island. A good quest has these elements:

  • The Call — being chosen to undertake the journey
  • The Companions — who will accompany the hero?
  • The journey itself — distance, obstacles, treachery
    • Monsters
    • Temptations
    • Deadly opposites or opposing dangers — think colliding armies
    • The underworld — death itself or a glimpse of the other side in the form of visions and insights gleaned by ghosts and spirits
    • The helpers — maintain posts along the path and assist the hero and companions in some way
  • Arrival and frustration — within sight of the goal but a new and terrible series of obstacles presents
  • The final ordeal — the last test of the hero’s personal transformation
  • Achievement of the goal — life affirming, it was all worth it finale of the story.

When we came back from the 9:30 news break, Derek talked about the workshop he gave on connecting the Hero’s Journey to your journey as a writer. The call — the story inside you that you’re called to write and deciding to write it. Companions — your writing group or workshop (see myscwa.org to find one). 

The Journey and Return plot is very different from the Quest in that it removes the hero from his or her normal everyday environment but not for any predetermined destiny. This story isn’t about following a path and reaching a destination, it’s about the strangeness of the new environment and how that forces the hero to change. Think Alice in Wonderland, Brideshead Revisited, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner or The Wizard of Oz. Even The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is in this category as the two daughters of Eve and two sons of Adam appear in Narnia to fulfill an ancient prophesy but their experience there cannot last. It’s an escape from WWII England. Time travel stories live here.

  • Anticipation stage — here is in limited consciousness when he/she “falls” into another world
  • Initial fascination or dream stage — enamored with the experience, excited by the changes and newness of everything
  • Frustration — the mood of the adventure turns dark as the hero realizes some new rules or restrictions to this world
  • Nightmare stage — the hero’s survival is at stake
  • Thrilling escape and return — back to where they started but changed by what they’ve seen.

Why use a journey in the story?

What role does the journey play in changing the character?

Segment 4

So how do we do it? This blog suggests:

  • Base your quest on a goal that excites the reader. What questions do we have to ask to select a goal? Some examples: treasure (Goonies), freedom, a lost or kidnapped loved one, truth or wisdom, defeat a villain or find love. Pick one.
  • Loose plotting — the detours and wrong turns sometimes make the best quest stories
  • Assemble companions — each has a strength that contributes to the quest and a weakness that puts the quest in danger of completion
  • Adversity — it’s what gets in the way that makes the quest so interesting; plan those elements and give your heroes the tools they need to address them
  • Respite and aid — the Inn at the edge of the village wherein a retired knight happens to know some specific knowledge that aids their journey
  • Get gradually harder — test the heroes a little bit more each time

That blog has a bunch of additional resources like:

Why Your Characters Have to Have a Goal

How to Write a Book Series That People Finish Reading

A couple of events worth mentioning:

Words & Wine is a monthly literary social held at The Lourie Center, 1650 Park Circle in Columbia and this week’s April 16th featured author is our friend and SCWA Columbia II Chapter member Raegan Teller, an award-winning mystery author. That’s this upcoming Tuesday at 6 p.m. it’s a $5 cover charge with refreshments included.

The SCWA’s Columbia II Chapter is hosting an event on April 27th at the Columbia Convention Center called The Business of Writing. Led by Midlands-area subject matter experts and experienced authors, agents and publishers, The Business of Writing offers key takeaways on digital platform building, events and conferences, and social media marketing.

Panels like “Choosing Your Publishing Path” with Literary Agent MacKenzie Fraser-Bub, Mystery Writer Raegan Teller, and Poet and Workshop Leader Cassie Premo Steele offer insights on traditional versus self publishing and the spectrum of options writers have for getting their work out into the world.

Then “How to Market Yourself and Your Work” with Carrollee Hevener, Bob Lackey, Al Black, and Cheryl Nugent will explore the various creative approaches writers have taken to sell themselves and their stories. Led by Write On SC radio show co-hosts Dr. Kasie Whitener and Rex Hurst and organized by the Columbia II Chapter of SCWA,

The Business of Writing offers games, prizes, community, and learning. All in this first-of-its-kind half day experience for SCWA members and Midlands-area writers. Register here.

Ready to support Write On SC? Go to Patreon.com/WriteOnSC to become a patron.


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