Introducing The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey is a universal concept, one that has been used in all the arts even before literature or any other form of storytelling was invented.
It was identified by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. But how does this story template actually work, and why is it used?
Campbell suggested that all mythology follows a single path and structure. Whether the story is about Jesus, Luke Skywalker, or Richard Rahl, there is an underlying structure. This structure of storytelling is known as The Hero’s Journey or Monomyth.
The Main Lines of The Hero’s Journey
As you might expect, The Hero’s Journey follows a simple formula. Here are some key elements to keep in mind when creating your own story:
1) A Character Goes on an Adventure – Usually this means going somewhere new and unknown. But sometimes it can be anything from going down a long-lost rabbit hole to meeting someone for the first time.
2) The Hero Returns Changed – Sometimes the hero returns with a different attitude towards life. He may change his name, become more outgoing, or even learn a new skill. Whatever he does, he always comes back with one thing: victory!
3) At Some Point, There Will Be a Roadblock – Often, the hero will encounter a roadblock along the way. This one is more challenging than the others he’s encountered, and it might even be something he can not solve right away. Just when it looks like all hope is lost…
4) The Hero Overcomes Adversity – In a moment of clarity, the hero figures out how to turn adversity in his favor. Once he does, he achieves victory and emerges from the conflict a clear winner!
5) The Hero Returns Home – Whether physically or mentally, the hero has changed for the better. He may even return with the thing he originally set out to find.
Isn’t This Formula A Bit Rigid?
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses all the time. Unless your story calls for a happy ending. Sometimes things just do not go as planned.
You may have to go through several steps before your hero achieves victory. Or you might add a few last-minute obstacles to keep things interesting. Either way, The Hero’s Journey is a handy tool to use whether you are writing a story or creating a new world from scratch. As with any formula, though, do not be afraid to think outside the box every now and then!
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of The Hero’s Journey. It is an effective tool for storytellers and can also help you build the worlds in which those stories are set. That’s because every good story starts with a solid foundation…and The Hero’s Journey structure is exactly that!
Now that you have had a crash course in The Hero’s Journey, you may be wondering how to apply this formula to your own creations. Do not worry, we will get there! In fact, in the next few sections, you’ll learn how to create a character using The Hero’s Journey as your guide.
Let us change that up by creating a brand new character now in a little game we can play.
The Hero’s Journey Game
First, we need to choose a gender for our hero. That’s easy: are you a man? Choose male. Are you a woman? Choose female. It’s that simple!
Next, we need to decide on the name of our hero. If you already have one in mind, go with that name. Otherwise, pick a name you like!
And there you have a hero!
But this hero needs a backstory. Where was she born? Is she an only child, or does he have several siblings? Are they from a poor family, or are they wealthy? All of this will help color the kind of person your hero will become.
Now that you have your character’s story down, it’s time to flesh them out! Give them physical, personal, and talent traits. Here are some suggestions to get you started: Physical: Is your character tall or short? Muscular or slender? What is their hair and eye color? This is all information that will help readers get an idea of who your character is.
Make sure you spend at least ten minutes on this part – it’s the most important part of creating a fictional character!
So far, we have a basic idea of who our hero is. Let us take a look at what she’ll be up against.
Remember that in The Hero’s Journey, the hero has a mentor of sorts? The villain is an “antagonist.” This is the character who gives our hero a reason to fight! Without an opposing force, there would be no story. So who is our hero’s nemesis?
It can be anyone: a monster, a corrupt government, or even another person. The important thing is to consider why this antagonist is a threat to your hero. What is their motivation? Do they do bad things for good reasons or good things for bad reasons?
Once you have a good idea of who the antagonist is, it’s time to fill them in like we did with our hero!
Your hero and antagonist are both created, so it’s time to build a story around them. Let us go!
Building Your Story
The story (in this little game) is composed of many different scenes. Each of these scenes tells a part of the story and creates a path for the hero to follow. Think of each scene as a stepping stone that takes your hero from where she is to where she needs to go.
For example, our hero begins in the village of Albert-on-the-Lake, a poor town in the middle of a lake. The town is run by Mayor Cole, a corrupt leader who steals money from the town’s coffers to better himself.
Now it’s your job to create a story that starts in this village and eventually leads the hero to defeat the antagonist and overcome his greatest fears. Take some time to come up with a beginning, middle, and end for your story. Be sure to include as many details as possible!
Once you are done drafting your story, start mapping out the scenes in your story! An easy way to do this is to create a new sheet or index card for each scene.
Each page should contain at least one piece of dialog from your story or characters. Try to add at least one piece of action, too! The order of the pages does not matter at this stage.
Once you have outlined each scene, hold off a bit and see if you can make the energy of your story more vivid or interesting by shuffling the order of the scenes – literally shuffling the pages or index cards.
Try to outline at least 10 scenes this way.
It’s a fun exercise that will spark your imagination, and by the end of it, you may have unearthed the story you actually want to tell or write.
Have fun with it!