The Hero’s Journey
Some say there are only two plots in the world—a stranger comes to town and someone goes on a journey.
My novel’s plot definitely falls into the latter journey category. So I decided to find out a little more about the Hero’s Journey.
I was familiar with Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces concerning the journey of the archetypal hero in world mythologies and that Campbell made famous the term “monomyth.”
Interestingly enough, I learned that Campbell borrowed the term “monomyth” from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.
I then found out that Christopher Vogler had distilled Campbell’s ideas into a book titled The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.
Vogler took Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and broke it down into the following twelve stages:
- The Ordinary World – The hero is in his or her ordinary surroundings
- The Call to Adventure – The inciting incident
- Refusal of the Call – Maybe from fear or some other reason
- Meeting with the Mentor
- Crossing the Threshold – Hero leaves the Ordinary World
- Test, Allies and Enemies – Lots of trials and struggles
- Approach to Inmost Cave – Preparing for a significant challenge
- The Ordeal – Hero confronts his greatest fear – Midpoint of the novel
- The Reward – Seizing the Sword
- The Road Back – Maybe a few more trials along the way
- The Resurrection or Atonement – The climax – The hero is transformed
- Return with Elixir – The hero returns home
During the writing of my first draft, I’m glad I didn’t know about these twelve stages. I think I would’ve felt too hemmed in by this formula, and I would have chafed at feeling the need to hit each mark along the way.
But it’s interesting to note that without even realizing it, I used about half of them. In fact, I think it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the Hero’s Journey entirely. It’s probably ingrained in our psyche from Odysseus onward.
The Hero’s Journey can even be applied to movies. Here’s a fun illustration to show how:
And lastly, a few books that follow the Hero’s Journey:
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien