The Hero’s journey is a widespread form of story structure derived from mythologist Joseph Campell’ s ‘Monomyth’ from his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which was originally published in 1949
There are twelve steps, and as you go through them, you’ll probably find that they seem familiar. This is because a lot of stories are written this way and once you know what to look for you’ll more than likely be able to spot them the next time you’re reading a book.
The twelve steps are:
1: Ordinary World:
Here you show your hero’s everyday world; what he (or she) usually does and what his life is like. It shows contrast when he’s taken out of the ‘ordinary’ environment and put in the new ‘special world’.
2: Call to Adventure:
Something or someone calls the hero to adventure by way of a problem or a challenge; somebody they care about may be threatened, and the hero is asked for help. His kingdom or something else important to him may be under fire. This step helps to set up the stakes. What happens if the hero refuses the call? (which at first, undoubtedly, he will).
3: Refusal of the Call:
The hero refuses the call. He may be scared to take whatever action is necessary for him to accept it.
The mentor is the Merlin-esque character who guides and motivates the hero. They push him to do the right thing. This doesn’t have to be a person who is physically there, it can also be a memory of somebody from the hero’s past, encouraging him. It can even be some kind of supernatural force who can impart advice or give magical weapons or potions that the hero can use later on.
5: Crossing the First Threshold:
The hero commits himself to the challenge, quest or problem from The Call to Adventure and has crossed into the special world of your story. This is where the adventure actually begins, and the story gets going.
6: Tests, Allies and Enemies:
Here, the hero is tested by new challenges. He meets new friends and encounters the bad guys, while at the same time getting to grips with the special world. There may even be a reversal at some point where one of the hero’s friends reveals themselves to actually be an enemy, or conversely, somebody thought of as an enemy might really turn out to be one of the good guys.
7: The Inmost Cave:
This is the part of the story where the hero prepares himself to face the big bad whatever. He plans and strategises, and he may even need to face up to psychological traumas or learn or build upon skill sets in preparation for battle.
The big fight happens here and, usually, the hero wins. This is where we learn that the hero is indeed a hero. In facing his greatest fears, he determines to power through regardless.
After surviving the huge battle, the hero and his friends celebrate. He may take possession of a new weapon, perhaps a magic sword or some magic potions or elixirs that can heal the injured. They may even have learned some new knowledge and gained invaluable experience.
10: The Road Back:
In this section of the story, the hero must deal with the consequences of the huge confrontation or battle with the big bad whatever. The bad guys may even try to come after him and his friends again, chasing them as the hero tries to get them all out of harm’s way. Here the hero should experience death, either in dying himself or in another character dying. At the very least, the hero should be close to death.
A character who was thought to have been defeated either comes back to life or gains the strength to carry on. The hero sees things differently now. He can never see the world in the same way again. He may also simply realise here that he is a different person from when he first began his adventure.
12: Return with the Elixir:
The hero returns to his ordinary world, perhaps returning with a new insight or understanding. Often the hero is set apart from the rest of the people on his return, he is not like the others anymore and becomes an outsider. The Elixir could be treasure found on the adventure or a romantic involvement, it doesn’t have to be a magic potion though indeed, it can be. It is your story after all, and you can do whatever you like.
Some people follow this structure step by step, others mix the steps up, which doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you write your story, and this is just one of the many ways you can do that.
As always, thanks for reading.
Until next time,