Where is your story going? Perhaps it is going on a Hero’s Journey.
Writers arrive at their stories in many ways. Some writers construct a detailed outline in advance (plotters) and others begin to write and see where it leads them (commonly called pantsers). No matter what kind of writer you are, it helps to have an idea of how others have structured their stories before you start. Today we’re going to take a look at the Hero’s Journey, then how to go well beyond.
Studied and popularized by Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey is a commonly-touted story structure. Usually it involves a linear story with one protagonist who goes through a series of challenges. This narrative arc shows up most often in the adventure, road trip, and heroic fantasy genres (think Lord of the Rings).
Public Domain Illustration
If you haven’t heard of it before and want to learn more try:
1. Writing Excuses has a good overview podcast (episode 8.2) that explains what The Hero’s Journey is, how it can be misinterpreted, and how it can be useful. They suggest The Hero’s Journey can be a good guide, but advise against using it as a checklist. (If you prefer to read, there is a transcript of the episode).
2. Start with the references in this wikipedia article.
Dan Harmon has simplified the arc into its essentials. Basically he says the character starts out in his/her/their comfort zone, but because they want something, they move into the unfamiliar. They adjust to the new normal and get whatever it is they wanted, but pay some sort of heavy price. When they return to their comfort zone, they are changed. Follow the links at the end of each article to learn more.
Going Well Beyond
Earlier this year at SinC NorCal August 1, 2020 meeting, Vanitha Sankaran spoke on Revolutionizing the Hero’s Journey. She follows storytelling around the world and reveals some interesting ways that cultures differ. Because it was a virtual conference, you get to see it, too.
It is well worth the time and be sure to have a notebook handy!
I’m going to watch it again today.
What do you think? Are you considering using some aspect of The Hero’s Journey?
Visit our 30 Day Novel Prep Page for all the links.