Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Unlocking the adventure your character has within

The Hero’s Journey was created in the 1940s by Joseph Campbell, a professor who loved fiction. His character and world-building stemmed praise, respect, and adoration in the writing and filmmaking community. To this day, authors and screenwriters still use the Hero’s Journey as a basis for their main characters.

Because this theory is so widely renowned and famous, people like George Lucas (Uhm, hello, have you NOT watched Star Wars?) have modeled their movie franchises with the Mono-myth.

The good news is that with Nanowrimo just a few weeks away, we’re gearing things up here at W&D headquarters. We’re sharpening our pencils, restocking on tea, and prepping our outline for our own novels! We thought, “What better way to celebrate than by breaking the Hero’s Journey down for everyone?”

And thus we did. (Because we’re cool like that.)

1. Ordinary World

In our opinion, the hero doesn’t necessarily have to be the main character, (Neville Longbottom was a real MVP in HP). But what they do have to be is an extraordinary person in an ordinary world. Whether they know it or not, life is going to change drastically for them, and it’s usually for the better. Think of all of the adventures they’ll get to embark on–and it’s only just the beginning!

2. Call To Adventure

Hark! An adventure! At this moment, the hero is contemplating their life. Perhaps they’re being forced into this adventure, or maybe they’re going on their own volition. Perhaps they even randomly stumbled upon said adventure. Whatever the case may be, the stakes are high, and our hero is only getting started. Will they persevere and make it through? Will their inner badass shine? All this and more, on the next episode of…Call To Adventure!

3. Refusal of The Call

Sometimes the hero goes all in–they’ve got nothing to lose, right? WRONG. A good hero narrows down the good, the bad, and the downright preposterous. The good might outweigh the bad, yet, the hero is still present. Hopefully, they don’t go anywhere because shit’s about to get real.

4. Meeting The Mentor

Have you ever wanted to do something–anything, really–but didn’t know where to start? Enter the mentor: the person who will guide, train, and probably save you a few times. They’re the confidante, the best bud, that inanimate object, or even that one creeper that lurks in the corner of the tavern with an eye patch and a bottle of gin. Point is, they’ve got the hero’s back. Whether it be through wisdom, sarcasm, anecdotes, or training, rest assured that your hero is being helped and guided along their journey.

5. Crossing the Threshold

And thus, the hero embarks on a tell-tale journey that will change the future of humanity as we know it. Or maybe they’re righting a wrong. What our hero knows for sure is that there’s no turning back. Like, at all. Make sure that the theme is coherent enough in this section because it’s about to get more wild than the weirdo lurking in the tavern corner.

6. Tests, Allies & Enemies

Remember that scene in Harry Potter where Harry is riding the train to Hogwarts, and he meets Ron and Hermoine? Yeah, friends. What about the moment when he first meets Draco? Cue the enemies.

This part of our hero’s journey is all about getting acquainted with their new surroundings–figuring out who to trust and who’s the enemy. Moments will occur where our hero will question, “Why the hell did I sign up for this?” As long as the hero survives, the story will continue, and the fun is only getting started!

7. Approach to The Innermost Cave

I mean, it could very well be an actual cave. But in this case, it’s usually the villain’s evil lair (perhaps in a cave!) or some type of dangerous situation; the possibilities are endless. Use your setting to create and navigate your surroundings. Expand on how dire or perilous the situation is.

Note that the hero hasn’t entered this metaphorical cave yet. Our hero is still on the journey towards it.

8. The Ordeal

Our hero has battled foes, trusted their intuition and yet, something is off. Campbell calls this moment the belly of the whale. And boy, is it ever! This is the moment where everything will lead the hero towards fighting the fight. Whether they lose or win, you’re almost guaranteed that your readers will be on the edge of their seats.

Don’t get this scene twisted–it’s not the climax of the story, yet. This is just a moment in their timeline where signals might get crossed. This is where the music engineers of a movie will place that epic battle (yet somehow inspiring?) jingle music. The hero fights the big bad.

9. The Reward/Seizing The Reward

The reward is so close that it’s just beyond...well, who knows, really? It’s the whole point of the adventure and journey. Was it a test, a fight, or an inner battle? This is where the hero draws upon all the knowledge and skills that they’ve learned throughout (or even when they were in the ordinary world) and arrive face-to-face with the truth.

10. The Road Back

The road back is not as easy as it sounds. Technically speaking, this is only the beginning of Act Three. On the ride back to the ordinary world, will there be another challenge to face? Will they be treated the same way? Once again, the possibilities are truly endless. It’s a matter of what works best for your hero–and how well they interpret everything they’ve been through. Other obstacles might occur here, but never fear because our hero knows what they’re doing! Kind of, sort of, anyway. Well, either way, they’re certainly more experienced now.

11. The Resurrection

Okay, NOW we’ve reached the real climax of the story. The moment of truth. The part of the story where your reader will need a box of tissues, some vodka, and you–the author–next to them, assuring them that everything will be alright in the end. BECAUSE IT WILL BE, RIGHT?

This resurrection will make or break our hero. Are there people counting on them? Will their loved one look at them the same way? Did they grow a third eye while surviving the near-death escape? Never fear, for a good chunk of the time, the hero emerges and rises up like a phoenix.

The rebirth of the hero is a good thing.

12. Return with the Elixir

Well, it’s about time. Our fantastic hero gets to go home. They’ve changed. No longer are they the same person they were in the beginning, and that’s okay. They return with their prize–whatever that may be. This is a cause for celebration! They made it! The story is finally complete.

...Or is it?


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