Jul 23, 2012

Archetypal Awareness - The Mentor

In the life of every hero, there is that one individual who is the companion who provides guidance.  The mentor serves as a conscience, a motivator, a trainer, an educator and many more.  He/She generally knows more than they let on initially because they are aware that a full disclosure of information will probably dissuade the hero from trying.

Some of the mentors are obvious from the moment we encounter them, in part because of the direct impact they have on the hero.
Obi Wan Kenobi
Mr. Miyagi
Sometimes you know a mentor is going to be a mentor as soon as they show up, even if their influence on the hero isn't immediate, direct or as obviously intentional.
Albus Dumbledore
Some of them reveal themselves as the story continues in the way that they make the heroes change the way they think about themselves, the people around them, the potential for their lives.  Their teaching methods are not always traditional and students often are annoyed or frustrated by the mentor before they start to realize they can learn something from them.
Mr. Keating
Doc Hudson
Mentors don't always have the happily ever after, and because of this, sometimes we love them even more.  Generally, a mentor knows theirs is a thankless job in the direct sense of the student offering love and gratitude.  The mentor most often considers seeing the change in the hero the reward they were hoping for.

Do you have a favorite mentor in literature, TV or film?  Do you have a character in your WIP who is serving a mentor position?  Do you prefer a mentor who directly helps or just subtly guides the hero in the right direction?


welcome to my world of poetry said...

Excellent post.
My mentor is through books and cds.
His name is Paul McKenna though British he now lives in LA. He helped me through a very difficult period in my life some years ago.


Kelley Lynn said...

Great post! In one of my manuscripts, there is definitely a more 'typical' mentor. Older, wiser, directly helps.

In a different one, the mentor is different. Younger, doesn't directly help, etc.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've used a mentor in both of my books. (In the first one, the main character received and the second one, he becomes the mentor.) I don't really have a strong mentor for the third one though.

J. A. Bennett said...

These are all awesome examples. Mentors have their roles and as long as they're done right, I don't care how they show up :)

Vero said...

Good topic, Tasha -- mentors are very often encountered in fiction (and real life, if we choose to assume a learning position and model those who are good at what we try to improve).

I've had many different mentors in my life, and still do. Every time I focus on something I want to improve (be it a personal thing, or something about the craft of writing), I always look at those who are best at it, and try to figure out what it is they're doing and why it works.

Come to think of it, there's a small mentoring part in my WIP too. It's one of subtle nudging and unexpected support in a dire situation, and his intervention is crucial in bringing about a major change in one of the characters. It's true, act like that is always guaranteed to make a character dear to the reader even if the writer didn't intend to. :)

Cassie Mae said...

Oh I love the mentor character! I have one who's a big ol' fat guy who sees the future. Then one who's a 22 year old gamer. I love that this character can come in all different forms. :)

Andrew Leon said...

Hmm... Okay, it's been too long, maybe, but I'm not remembering a mentor character in Gilgamesh. Or Beowulf, either, actually.

Nicole said...

I love mentors...and they drive me crazy because they often withhold key info from the main character. But that just makes it more fun. I've used mentor figures in a few of my books.

Leigh Covington said...

The mentor is one of my favorite people in stories! I love all the ones you've mentioned. They all land on my list of faves :)

Emily R. King said...

Hmmm, I think my favorite mentor would be Alfred from Batman.

ali cross said...

Well, uh. Sure. What you said. :P

I liked mentors in all shapes and sizes. I like the surprise ones because they are, well, a surprise and usually it adds depth to their character and to the relationship between them and the MC.

I also like the established, obvious mentor because that archetype works for a reason--because we all desire that fair godmother/godfather in our own lives.

I tend to write the more traditional mentor, but every now and then I slip in a surprise. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have a mentor in my fantasy series and I love writing him.

Lisa Regan said...

I love the mentor character. Mr. Miyagi is a great one! I wish I could think of others but I'm drawing a blank!

elizabeth seckman said...

I can't think of any either. And I almost always have a "logic" driven character who advises the MC.

Lynn Proctor said...

there is a character in one of my favorite movies, that comes to mind--the role robin williams played in "good will hunting"

Angela Cothran said...

I loved this class at Storymakers! I find it fascinating that these archetypal characters make it into our writing with out our conscious thought. I have a mentor in my MS and he is one of my favorite characters. Hmm...I think if I have to pick a fav it would be Dumbledore!

Tracy said...

What a great post subject! :D

I do have a subtle mentor in my current WIP. The fun part is that my protag is very unaware of this "mentorship." Tidbits appear here and there, so the reader will be clued in, but the protag takes a bit longer to get there.

Jeff Hargett said...

Behind every successful hero is an awesome mentor! That is the way of things and rightfully so. And you would ask me to name a favorite? Okay, it's a tie between Gandalf and Obi Wan, but the greatest lesson was definitely "wax on, wax off."