The mentor has many faces. It can be a machine, or a stuffed animal. A mentor maybe an older sibling or a substitute parental figure. A mentor may be a waitress, a clerk at the local drug store or a babysitter. In other words, the mentor can wear many hats. In some cases, the hero may have more than one mentor. The occasional character that arrives in the nick of time and gives the hero the elixir of life, or at least some good advice.
The mentor can be out for his own gain. S/he may use the hero to get ahead, or be jealous of the hero and feed him or her false information. The mentor may be a trickster, or an idiot. On the flip side, the mentor may be good, righteous and of outstanding moral fiber.
Unlike the hero or the villain, the mentor doesn’t need to be as complex a character. You develop this character to suit your story and to give both support and a possible distraction to the hero. The mentor may raise more questions than s/he resolves.
Both ‘The Writer’s Journey,’ 2nd Edition, by Christopher Vogler. and 45 Master Characters, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt talk about the mentor and his/her importance in the story. You can follow the links to Amazon’s web site and learn more.
In my epic fantasy, my heroine has multiple mentors. The first is a unicorn who magically enables her to speak the language. Hey, it’s a fantasy, no translation codes in the jewelry. Then her hand maid is a mentor who speaks simple words of wisdom to my heroine. Trust me; you will be shouting this at my heroine for awhile by the time this shy girl tells her. Next an elf mentors her. He continually calls my heroine princess which irks her to no end. Lastly, a young maiden who lives with the elves mentors her. Each mentor has a specific role and each has a different personality. Some of my mentors also serve other purposes. They are in effect, dual characters or I should say, they have more than one role.
I do not know who the mentor will be for my novella yet…but I will have one.
What character have you recently assigned the role of mentor and why?