ARCHIVED: Work in Progress: Mary LaChapelle

by Katharine Reece MFA '12

What journey must a person take to become a hero? Mary LaChapelle (writing) spent her recent time-release grant pondering this question in order to develop a new fiction-writing course. As a result of her answers, she restructured her novel-in-progress, which chronicles a contemporary female's adventures down the Mississippi River.

LaChapelle initially thought her new course would be called "Hero's Journey." She eventually revised the emphasis on a hero's journey, however, because she didn't want her students to be limited by what turned out to be a far too narrow focus.

"The most surprising thing I discovered in the course was how much more the students needed to imagine and understand the nature of their characters' particular agencies," she says. "More then any other workshop, the writers needed to come to terms with the overall meaning of a character's actions in a story."

LaChapelle wanted her students to open their frame of reference and appreciate how characters' actions and values change according to culture and time and circumstances. Thus, the new course title, "Necessary Hero," was born.