Friday, May 28, 2010

Welcome Debut Author, Cara Lynn James!

I'm thrilled to welcome my good friend, Cara Lynn James, today! Cara's debut novel, Love on a Dime (from Thomas Nelson) is out now! And Cara has graciously offered to give away a copy. So to be entered in the drawing, please leave a comment or question with your contact information. And now Cara's going to share some great information for writers from one of my favorite how-to DVD series...

The Hero’s Inner Journey

A big thanks go to the FAITH blog ladies, and especially to Missy for hosting me today! I can’t resist mentioning that last night I found a copy of my first book, Love on a Dime, on the shelves of Books A Million in Pensacola! I could hardly breathe. At first I walked right past because I didn’t expect it to arrive until June 12th. To see my beautiful cover face out on a bookstore shelf was one of the biggest thrills of my life! I wish all writers the same, wonderful experience. We’re going back today to take a picture of me holding my book and no doubt grinning from ear to ear.

I’d like to share some really great information from a set of DVD’s I listened to a while ago. They’re called The Hero’s Two Journeys by Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays that Sell and Chris Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey. Even though the workshop is designed more for screenwriters and playwrights, novelists can benefit as well. I sure did, and no, they’re not paying me to say that!

The two journeys are the hero’s outer journey and his inner journey. The outer/external story is the plot, and the one I’m most familiar with. It’s the journey of achievement. It’s the visible story. There are many methods to designing plot structure, each with a different number of steps and a different approach. You can choose one that’s most easy to follow. Or, like many writers, you can write more free form—by the seat of your pants—and later mold the story. Or you can combine the two. It’s a personal decision.

The inner journey is the internal growth, the story of fulfillment. When I listened to the DVD I found I wasn’t very knowledgeable about exactly where the characters change during the story. I knew the hero and heroine each had a character arc and progressed from Point A to Point B.

Hauge talks about how during the course of the story the hero progresses from fear to courage, from being defined by others to being defined by himself. That’s what hero’s do—they grow inside and become better, stronger, wiser etc. More heroic, obviously. The obstacles to this growth come from within the hero.

When the writer begins to develop her character, she needs to give her a longing—a deeply felt desire. But the character is only paying lip service because she’s really too frightened to go after it. She lacks the courage to try to tackle it—not very heroic, or at least not as heroic as she will become later. An example that may hit too close to home—a writer who wants to be published more than anything in the world, but lacks the courage to submit her manuscript because she can’t handle the possibility of rejection. To find success and fulfill her dream she has to leap over this hurdle and conquer it.

The character has already suffered a wound and hasn’t gotten over it. She suffers this unhealed source of continuing pain throughout the story. This suffering may be from an event or an on-going situation.

Out of that wound comes a fear that the character tries to protect herself against. She can’t get too close to another character. Out of that fear comes the character’s identity. She says in effect, “This is who I am,” but she’s really not presenting her true self—her true essence. She’s putting on a persona, a false front, a mask, the armor that keeps her from experiencing the pain of who she is. No one wants to take the chance of being wounded again. Who can’t relate to that?

Her armor protects her, but it doesn’t allow her to be who she really is. So the growth occurs when the character gives up her armor. Her inner journey is from identity to essence, from death to life. It’s a long, difficult process, not a moment in time. And this is a tug of war between protection and risk.

All this intertwines with the hero’s outer journey.

Hauge identifies four character types: the hero, reflection (mentor, sidekick, best friend), nemesis and romantic interest.

The romantic character is the object of the hero’s pursuit and the reward from moving from identity to essence. The hero and heroine both see beneath each other’s identity and understand their true essence and beauty. It’s the other’s essence that they find so attractive.

He sees the character going through six different stages in his inner journey.

Stage 1—He’s living in his protective identity.

Stage 2—He gets a glimpse of his true essence and what life could be like if he lived in his essence.

Stage 3—He moves toward his essence without losing his identity. He’s not fully committed.

Stage 4—He’s now into essence, fully committed, but in fear.

Stage 5—He and the heroine now separate and all is lost. The outside world has intruded. He tries to retreat to his identity, but it doesn’t work any longer. He realizes he must have his romantic partner.

Stage 6—He’s living in essence. His journey/destiny is complete. His identity is dead, but his essence lives. He now defines himself. And he gets the girl. The End

Following these steps has really helped me develop the inner journeys of my heroes and heroines. I hope they’ll help you, too.

Thank you so much, Cara! And for those who didn't read the blurb from Cara's book yesterday, please scroll on down to see what Love on a Dime is all about! Also, if you'd like to get to know Cara better, I did an interview with her on Monday at Life with Missy. She is one amazing woman!

Don't forget to leave a comment or question for Cara. She'll be stopping in today. And if you'd like to be entered in the drawing, please let me know and leave your contact information.



  1. Thanks for being on FAITH Cara!
    So exciting to see your book in BAM! Wow!

    I also appreciate you posting about the Inner Journey. Very good teaching and I'm tempted to print this out and use it through my revisions!

  2. Great info, Cara. Thanks for write your process down for us to learn from.

  3. Good morning! I'm so delighted to be Missy's guest today.

    Learning about The Inner Journey really helped me so much. I have much less trouble developing the External Journey, although sometimes I go overboard with the plot and have too much of it. But unlike most romance writers I run into problems structuring the internal journal. It seems to me that most craft books concentrate on the external plot.

  4. Good morning, everyone! Cara, thanks for being here today. And such a great post! A very nice summary of Hauge's section of the DVD.

  5. Hi Everyone!
    Cara, I'd love to be in the drawing for your book! Especially after hearing how you developed the GMC in the plot.

    Just this week, I bought The Hero's Journey and it should arrive next week. I'll have to come back and re read your post here again and make sure I'm getting the most out of it. It has been recommended so often, that when Amazon dropped the price I jumped on it!

    This one comes with bonus audio CD. I can always use that! over and over.

    Have a great weekend, everyone!

    debraemarvin (at) yahoo

  6. Okay, this is the second time this week I've heard about those DVDs. And while I've heard Michael Hauge in person, having him give me a refresher every so often would be great.
    Thanks for joining us today, Cara. You're full of GREAT information.

  7. One reason I like Michael Hauge is because he's easy to understand and simplifies structure.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Debra!

    Mindy, I love the DVD's. I've watched them and have taken notes 3 or 4 times. I've heard Tina Radcliffe say she watches them each time she starts a new book.

  9. Cara, this is an excellent summary. I am wondering if you find yourself plotting this inner journey out entirely or if you may get to a certain point and realize you need to write through to get to the next step in a character's journey. IE how strict are you in following Hauge's advice.

    Looking forward to reading your book whether I buy it or win it.


  10. Thanks for stopping by, Julie! I'm curious to hear Cara's answer.

    I know for me, I usually have it all charted and written down before I start. But I'm a chart-a-holic! :)

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  12. Wow! That's all I can say!

    I will definitely be printing this post out!

    Thank you so much for the terrific information Cara and to Missy for hosting you here.

    EvaMariaHamilton at gmail dot com

  13. Oh and I loved the story of you in the bookstore! I'm so glad you wrote that, because when I finally get published I know I will have to take photos of my books in the stores! Now I'll know that I'm not alone or crazy in my excitement. :)

  14. I'm the type of writer who feels more secure if I write things out ahead of time. I don't like to get to the end of a chapter and say, "Ok, where do I go now?" So I really try to keep to my plot points. BUT, when I'm actually writing, I sometimes have a hard time sticking to what I planned. If something better comes to mind I'll go with it. I guess I'm a combination outliner/SOP writer. I'd be terrified to start a book and just 'go with the flow' because I might wander into quick sand.

  15. Here is my other comment. :)

    Cara, I also commented on your "motivation" post. Just want to say again how much I look forward to reading your book!

  16. Eva Maria and Carmen, thanks for stopping by!

    Eva Maria, I dragged my whole family (my parents included) to Wal-Mart to take photos of my first book. :)

    I also sobbed in the kitchen when I got my first box of books and actually held one in my hand. :)

  17. That's wonderful Missy! Good for you! I think I will do the exact same thing! :)

  18. Cara, such wonderful inspiration! Thank you for sharing this journey.

    Because I work outside the home, my husband called me to tell me my books had arrived. He tried to explain it to me over the phone. I got so emotional after I hung up, I had to go find a private cube in the back and sob. I had waited 14 years to see that book in print, labored and rewrote it so many times I had lost count, and couldn't wait to hold it in my hands, but my hubby got that privilege first. It wasn't until a month later I got to finally see it on the shelf. My husband was so happy and excited for me.

    That first novel is such a wonderful experience.

  19. The winner of the copy of Love on a Dime is LaTawnia (who commented yesterday)! Congrats!!

    LaTawnia, I'll email you for your information.

    Thanks, Cara! We enjoyed having you visit.

  20. Oh, Jenn, I can understand! I was so excited to see my name on the box of books, but totally unprepared for my reaction when I opened the box and saw those books with my name on the cover.

    For those of you still pushing toward that first's totally worth the work, the rejections, the dusting off and trying again. So keep at it! :)