Recycling of literature
You have probably read a book and recognized many of the story lines without having read it before. There are certain patterns which are very common in fiction literature and tends to show up in all sorts of colorful disguises.
A lot of stories have a common origin in the deepest myths of mankind that are common to people throughout all time. Just like fear of the dark there will be common elements with other writers who are also touching those myths. Many writers also tend to lend material from ancient mythology, legends or simply even from other similar writers.
A classic sequence of events in mythology is:
- The foreshadowing: Some sort of prophecy is revealed, speaking of a Chosen One that will, for instance, bring order to chaos.
- The leaving: The characters, including the Chosen One, will leave their homes embarking on a dangerous journey…
- The wilderness: …which will take them through a perilous path, quite often an enchanted forest or such.
- The crisis: The Chosen One must make a decision.
- The action: That decision will lead to an inevitable battle against the dark forces (there are always dark forces).
- The transformation: The Chosen One will evolve according to the prophecy.
Let’s have a look at these well-known first-parters:
- Eye of the World – first book in fantasy series "Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan
- Fellowship of the Ring – first book in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
- A New Hope – fourth film about the "Star Wars" saga with plot by George Lucas
In (1), four village people (Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene) leave with a wizard (Moiraine) and an uncrowned king (Lan). In (2), four hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin) leave their village, unfortunately without the wizard (Gandalf) as was the plan (but he got captured), soon to be joined by an uncrowned king (Aragorn). In (3), a farmer (Luke) leaves with a wizard (Obi-Wan).
An attack is brought upon the village (Trollocs / Nazgul / Stormtroopers). The main character (Rand / Frodo / Luke) leaves the closest thing to a father (Tam / Bilbo / Uncle Owen) behind.
They are more or less manipulated by the wizard to leave the village, but believes it to be their own choice of will.
The travelers first arrive to a shady mid-sized town (Baerlon / Bree / Mos Eisley). They do stupid things (Rand challenges Bornhald / Merry wanders off into the night and faces a nazgul / Luke brings his droids to the cantina and receives a "easy target"-stamp by the Walrus man). But they are rescued (Lan helps Rand against the Myrddraal / Aragorn tells the hobbits to sleep in another place / Obi-Wan strike down the Walrus man).
On their journey they enter an unsafe passageway to gain speed (The Ways / Moria / Hyperspace) and automatically gets into trouble (Machin Shin / Balrog / Asteroids).
The main character discovers that he has a special power (Rand and Saidin / Hobbits are less affected by the Ring’s influence than other races / Luke and the Force) but he needs guidance in order to control it.
Later on the hero discovers the true nature of his heritage (Rand and Janduin / Luke and Anakin) and the difficult path that lies ahead with no one to help them (Rand destined to die at Tarmon Gai’don / Frodo must drop the ring into Orodruin / Luke must defeat his own father and the Emperor).
And yes, the half-happy ending with a lesson to be learned. Or it would have been a bad story for the campfire.