The Hero's Journey


The Hero Journey is probably the most recognizable plot structure in use today. The gist of it is very easy to comprehend and recognize:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Source: Hero’s journey - Wikipedia

It is also known as The Monomyth and was based on a pattern defined by Joseph Campbell in his wonderful work The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Wikipedia. That book is amazing and quite dense, it takes a long time to take apart what is being explored there. It is not a book about creative writing, or plot structures at all, it is a work of comparative mythology drawing from academic studies in anthropology, psychology, literature, and religion. I really recommending checking this original work out, but only after getting familiar with this plot structure by studying secondary sources that distill what Campbell had to say in an easier to understand (and apply) form.

These days, the quintessential example used by basically every single text is Star Wars. Luke begins as a frustrated farmer in the middle of nowhere, then he goes into a journey and meet new friends and a wise mentor. Together they face many challenges and by the end of the story Luke is transformed. He is no longer a farmer from a backwards planet, he is the hero of the rebellion and a Jedi.

Disclaimer: Yes, the three act structure is probably more recognizable than the hero journey, but let me make a case that the three act structure is basically invisible. We’re so used to it that we don’t notice it anymore, we don’t even need much attention to plan things in that way. Also it is so loose that except for the acts and turning points, there is not much about it in terms of plotting. I see it more of a story shape and less like a more structured approach.

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