The concept of the Hero’s Journey isn’t a new one–in fact, it’s as old as storytelling. The Hero’s Journey, known in literary circles as the Monomyth, is an archetypal plot structure that can be found at the core of stories across multiple genres and mediums.
1. What is the Hero’s Journey?
Think of your favorite story: does the protagonist face an obstacle? Do they experience a change in character or a shift in perspective? Then your favorite movie follows, at least to some extent, the Hero’s Journey.
There’s a reason for that: the Hero’s Journey is a plot structure that works. It centres on a protagonist overcoming a great obstacle and undergoing a profound change. Those driving forces of conflict resolution and change makes for a compelling plot where the readers/viewers root for the protagonist.
The version of the Hero’s Journey that is often referenced in pop culture was adapted by Christopher Vogler from the original Monomyth, who developed his version while working at Disney. It’s the structure that most Hollywood movies follow, though not always in perfect order. Generally, though, the protagonist/hero embarks on an adventure from their mundane ordinary world to face their conflict in the unknown, “special world” (this can happen literally or figuratively).
2. Follow the Hero’s Journey
If you wan to write your own epic story, the Hero’s Journey is a great place to start. When planning your plot, try to follow the stages of the Hero’s Journey. This will ensure that your plot progresses towards the resolution of a conflict and that the protagonist experiences a change. The particular setting, character personalities, and genre are up to you, but the core progression of events can follow the same fundamental pattern.
3. The 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey
Vogler’s Hero’s Journey follows a process of 12 stages. Though the stages are not always followed in perfect order from story to story, the basic elements of each stage are typically covered. The stages are:
Stage One (The Ordinary World): The hero is introduced in the mundane ordinary world.
Stage Two (The Call to Adventure): The initiating conflict takes place.
Stage Three (Refusal of the Cal)l: The hero is hesitant to enter the special world and accept the call to adventure.
Stage Four (Meeting with the Mentor): The mentor introduces the hero to the special world and guides them in gaining the supplies needed to embark on the adventure.
Stage Five (Crossing the First Threshold): The hero passes the point no return and commits wholeheartedly to the adventure.
Stage Six (Tests, Allies and Enemies): The hero faces trial in the special world, making friends and enemies along the way.
Stage Seven (Approach to the Innermost Cave): The hero draws closer to both the heart of the special world and the heart of the story.
Stage Eight (The Ordeal): The hero faces their greatest challenge yet and undergoes a process of “death” and “rebirth.”
Stage Nine (The Reward): The hero experiences the consequences of surviving “death” and obtains the object of their quest.
Stage Ten (The Road Back): The hero begins their return to the ordinary world but a final trial faces them.
Stage Eleven (The Resurrection): The hero emerges from the special world changed by their experiences and the wisdom they’ve gained.
Stage Twelve (Return with the Elixir): The hero returns to the ordinary world with their special object, which they use to make the ordinary world better.
This infographic tracks the Hero’s Journey through six of the most popular movies of the last 50 years.
4. Make the Story Your Own
The most important thing to remember is that rules are made to be broken. Once you have a basic understanding of the Hero’s Journey, you can deviate from the plot in ways that will make your story more interesting. Typically, these changes will involve original characters and settings. For example, you may want your protagonist to be an anti-hero, or you may want to set your story in an unusual setting (ever thought of writing a story about anthropomorphic office supplies? maybe?). Maybe reorganize the order of certain events, depending on what makes sense for your particular story.
Think of the Hero’s Journey as your map. What you discover along the way in your writing process will be where the originality comes in.
Featured photo credit: www.unsplash.com via unsplash.com