Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for the Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is another name for the Monomyth which, according to Joseph Campbell, is the basic pattern or template for plot in narratives around the world. Some of the most successful narratives (ex. Lord of the Rings, Ender's Game, and Star Wars) fit this template.

There are 17 steps to the Hero's Journey, although very few narratives contain all 17 steps. The basic steps, along with the corresponding character arc are broken down by Darcy Pattinson as:

  • Ordinary World – Limited awareness of problem
  • Call to Adventure – increased awareness
  • Refusal of Call – reluctance to change
  • Meeting the Mentor – overcoming reluctance
  • Crossing the First Threshold – committing to change
  • Tests, Allies, Enemies – experimenting with 1st change
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave- preparing for big change
  • Supreme Ordeal – attempting big change
  • Reward – consequences of the attempt
  • The Road Back – rededication to change
  • Resurrection – final attempt at big change
  • Return with Elixir – final mastery of the problem

  • If these steps are taken generally and "Refusal of Call" is taken out, then my most recent MS does actually fit this template, though I didn't use a plot template while writing. I guess this is a relatively good sign :)

    While researching the topic of plot templates, I read a lot of back and forth between writers about the benefit/detriment of using plot templates. The critics are afraid of a loss of creativity and an onslaught of stories which are all the same. Those for templates argue that it is important to meet reader expectations, but to understand the templates well enough to be able to make the changes which will make the story unique.

    What do you think? Can every story be squeezed into a template (29 Plot Templates)? Can yours? Would you ever use a plot template as a starting point for a new idea? Or as a tool during revisions?


    1. I think it helps to have some kind of a template; some writers do it instinctively. About a character: What does he want and by the end of the story, does he get what he wanted? This has helped me.

    2. I love these templates. As loverofwords said above some people do it naturally without thinking. But a template like this can be a source of inspiration too. It's a definite character arc - and the important aspect is that the hero changes by the end. Off to check the 29 Plot template now...

    3. I definitely outline general plot and character arcs before I get started, but the plot templates are more helpful for me during revisions - to understand what type of story I've written and make sure all of the elements are there. I don't like to write with a specific plot template in mind though because I find it limits my ability to think outside of that specific template.

    4. I wonder whether such templates and styles of writing have become so well known in our cultural consciousness that we use them , as a guide when writing, without even realizing. There are many, many novels that could fit into this template. Especially in traditional fantasy. We all know, really, what to expect when reading or viewing such stories because the 'template' is entrenched in our culture. This is why modern writing can be so refreshing when these templates are subverted. But even that is starting to become normalized.

      Another great post AK! I don't know how you can manage such interesting, indepth topics every day. I take my hat off to you. Looking forward to tomorrow's :)

      1. That's so true - I bet we do use them without realizing it, but maybe that supports the idea that it's important to know they exist and understand them so that we can truly create something new?

    5. Wow, this is great! I'm going to save this and give it a more in depth study. :D

      My A-Z

    6. Check out Christopher Vogler (student of Campbell). He's updated and expanded on these theories and spent years teaching/working in the film industry. I've had the pleasure of attending some of his seminars - wonderful speaker!

      New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.


      1. Thank you so much for the tip and for the follow :D

    7. I don't think a template is necessary, but one can use one without being exact and find success, I'm sure. Sometimes reading the same story over and over again gets monotonous.

      Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

      1. I definitely get tired of reading stories which seem to follow the same, predictable pattern. Using a plot template, but tweaking it so that's it's something new could be just the solution to that though.

    8. Great minds think alike! My "H" entry was Hero, and I touched on the hero's journey a bit. I love Campbell's work. I think every writer should give Hero with a Thousand Faces a read at some point. So many stories have used the monomyth, from Star Wars to Harry Potter.

      Great post, AK!

      J.W. Alden

      1. I agree! Even if I don't plan to use plot templates, it's still a good idea to get a feel for what's out there.