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There and Back Again

"Children need to read about ‘heroic legends."

JRR Tolkien, author of The Hobbits and Lord of the Rings

After returning to the Shire, Bilbo Baggins wrote a memoir about his adventures with dwarves in The Hobbit. I am using that “There and Back Again” concept to compare my chronicle of our story development to the completed Star Life Keepers.


In our early worldbuilding, I taught my grandson Brady about the Hero’s Journey as we went from Joseph Campbell’s mythological perspectives to Christopher Vogler’s interpretations for writers.

Hero's Journey & Brady

It took me a while to figure out that, when Brady said he wanted to make a “PG-13 book,” he meant one for middle school readers!

To learn more about midgrade fantasy books, we asked book store clerks and librarians to give us a “guided tour” of the types of books we could write together. Amazon was a great way to explore the field, too. 

We studied and applied the Hero’s Journey model as we watched movies like Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and Jurassic Park. We also went hiking to identify sites for our settings. 


In that early stage, it was mostly a process of ruling in/ruling out how best to approach our first writing project. 


We settled on a star-traveling, epic medieval adventure, which fit with both of our interests.


Early on, I wanted to know Brady’s “why.”


First, he said he wanted to have fun making a book.

Second, he wanted to spend special time with his grandfather.

Finally, even if it was going to be difficult, Brady wanted to create a commercial book and put his 50% share of the profits into a college fund.


As we developed our book, which took a while since Brady was in school most of the year, I introduced him to fun things like archery. We started first with an easier-to-draw recurve bow and then advanced to a longbow.

I also connected with a top medieval sword-fighting expert (Guy Windsor) who graciously advised us as we bought a replica wooden broadsword and longsword, which all the grandkids play with as they learn about our fantasy books.

One of the other highlights for Brady was meeting with John Claude Bemis, our local Disney author/story consultant, who greatly improved Star Life Keepers.

Hero's Journey: Jason, Amanda & Elisa

Our three protagonists leave the Everyday World and star travel to the Special World. Jason has the primary POV at 70% with Amanda and Elisa each at 15%. We set up a color-coded system to track the chapter POVs.

We also made hand-drawn maps to build our Belacamber parallel universe—and used professional illustrators to replicate them for Star Life Keepers.

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