Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In Defense of Mentors

My writer's group has been working through the Hero's Journey in our discussions. Last week we talked about the mentor character, and several people lamented that the Mentor always withholds essential information.

Having had some experience writing mentors lately, I have to step up and defend the mentors from unfair villification.

The mentor seems like he or she knows everything because he has to. After all, the secret to leadership is to act like you know what is going on at all times, even if you don't, but not to commit to anything unless you have good information. So, mentors come across as irriatating know-it-all's, but that is often not the case.

I feel sorry for the mentor, actually. Think of all the responsibility. Not just the burden for developing the hero from  hapless youth with unmet potential into a the defender of truth and goodness, but quite often the responsibility for keeping the whole realm from falling apart until he is ready to save it. Mentors must get very little sleep. Like anxious mothers, surely they hide their own fears until the wee hours of the night when no one else can see them weep and rail, then act like a wall of strength when the sun comes up or the monster awakens to threaten their young.

Mentors also get sacrificed in the middle of the plot, because the Hero has to do it by himself. So, off with Obi-Wan's head! Into the abyss with Gandalf! Thanks for everything, but your usefulness has ended and it is time to be replaced.

Sort of like the professional world, now that I think about it. (!)

Anyway... Be kind to Mentors. Remember that they, too, are struggling to fulfill their potential.

Heroes and Heroines, recall that one day soon you may well be in their shoes, and that you, too, might be cast into the abyss to make room for the next generation.


  1. how about this twist? a mentor who dies in the second or third chapter, has vital information, chose not to share it and turns out to not exactly be a villain, but the person who has now made things worse?

  2. LOL At first I thought you meant writing mentors. Fortunately I finally clued in what you meant.

    I haven't included mentors in my stories, but these are great points for when I do.

  3. That's an awesome twist, Michelle!

  4. Hi, Stina! Yes, I meant fictional mentors, not real ones. :)

  5. If a character isn't fallible then he isn't worthwhile. A character should have secrets, regardless of what we think of him for it.


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