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What is the Hero’s Journey?

Have you ever been captivated by a story that follows a protagonist on an epic adventure?

From ancient myths to contemporary films, many narratives share a common structure known as the Hero’s Journey. This timeless story template takes us on a journey of self-discovery, transformation, and triumph.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the essence of the Hero’s Journey. We’ll delve into its acts and stages, we’ll see some great examples and some tips to use in our narrative.


HERO’S JOURNEY DEFINITION

What is the Hero’s Journey?

The Hero’s Journey, also known as the monomyth, is a universal story structure that has been present in various cultures for centuries. It was popularized by Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces“. At its core, the Hero’s Journey is a narrative arc where a hero goes on a quest or adventure to achieve a goal, facing challenges, gaining insights, and ultimately returning home transformed.


The Three Acts of the Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey can be divided into three distinct acts: Departure, Initiation, and Return. Each act consists of several stages the Hero must navigate to complete their transformation.

Act 1: Departure

The Departure stage sets the foundation of the Hero’s ordinary world and introduces the call to adventure. Here, the Hero lives a seemingly ordinary life until they receive a call that disrupts their status quo.

Initially, they may hesitate or refuse the call, but with a mentor’s guidance, they decide to embark on their Journey.

Act 2: Initiation

In the Initiation stage, the Hero ventures into the unknown. He crosses the Threshold from their ordinary world to the special world. They face trials, meet allies and enemies, and approach the inmost cave where their ultimate goal awaits.

The Hero undergoes an Ordeal, a significant test that pushes them to their limits and forces them to confront their greatest fears. Through this challenge, they gain valuable insights and seize the Reward.

Act 3: Return

The Return stage marks the Hero’s journey back to their ordinary world, forever changed by their experiences. They encounter further obstacles on the road back but ultimately face their final hurdle, experiencing a resurrection that solidifies their transformation.

Finally, the Hero returns with the Elixir. It’s the wisdom or treasure gained on their quest, ready to share it with their community.


HERO’S JOURNEY STEPS

What are the steps of the Hero’s Journey?

The Hero’s Journey has 12 steps:

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting the Mentor
  5. Crossing the First Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
  8. Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir.

The 12 Steps of the Hero’s Journey

Within the three acts of the Hero’s Journey, there are 12 key steps that the Hero undergoes. Let’s explore each step in detail and understand how they contribute to the Hero’s transformation.

Step 1: The Ordinary World

The Journey begins in the Hero’s ordinary world, where we are introduced to their daily life, relationships, and challenges.

The Ordinary World is the essential groundwork upon which the Hero’s journey unfolds. During this initial stage, the audience is granted a window into the protagonist’s everyday and routine life before any extraordinary events transpire.

Extraordinary events transpire during this phase. It is fundamental as it offers context, enabling viewers or readers to connect deeply with the Hero’s desires, frustrations, and aspirations within their familiar surroundings. By establishing this baseline, the subsequent journey becomes more impactful. The audience can fully appreciate the transformative nature of the Hero’s experiences as they navigate from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Step 2: Call to Adventure

In this step, the Hero receives, typically from a Herald, a Call to Adventure. The Call operates as a guiding light, shattering the peace of the Hero’s ordinary world and enticing them onto a path of uncertainty.

The Call is also the catalyst that propels the Hero’s journey forward. It’s an invitation to confront challenges, unveil hidden potentials, and ultimately fulfill a destiny that lies in wait.

This moment marks the departure from the familiar, urging the Hero to venture into the unknown and embark on a transformative quest. The Call is not merely a disruption. It’s an opportunity for growth, self-discovery, and the unfolding of the Hero’s true potential.

Step 3: Refusal of the Call

The Hero may refuse the call, hesitant to leave their comfort zone. The Refusal of the Call unveils the Hero’s internal struggles and doubts as they wrestle with the implications of embarking on a Journey that promises the unknown, challenges, and personal growth.

It represents a moment of hesitation. A pause before the Hero must decide whether to accept or reject the destiny that awaits. This phase is crucial in revealing the Hero’s vulnerabilities and human qualities as they confront the daunting prospect of leaving the safety of the ordinary world.

The inner conflict becomes a poignant exploration of the Hero’s fears and reservations. It adds depth to their character and sets the stage for their transformative choices as the Journey unfolds.

Step 4: Meeting the Mentor

The Hero encounters a Mentor, a figure of experience and knowledge who provides guidance, wisdom, and support. The Mentor becomes a beacon for the Hero, offering insights and tools essential for navigating the challenges that lie ahead.

This encounter catalyzes the Hero’s growth, providing valuable lessons and shaping their understanding of the Journey. The Mentor’s guidance prepares the ground for the unfolding adventure. It infuses the Hero with newfound knowledge and skills that will prove indispensable in the face of trials and tribulations.

The Mentor becomes an important ally, steering the Hero toward their destiny and playing a vital role in the unfolding transformative narrative.

Step 5: Crossing the First Threshold

The Hero leaps and crosses the Threshold, protected by a Guardian, into the special world, leaving behind their familiar environment. It is a moment of profound significance as the Hero encounters new realms, faces adversaries, and begins to unravel the mysteries that lie ahead.

This stage serves as a testament to the Hero’s courage and determination to explore uncharted territories, demonstrating their willingness to confront the journey’s challenges.

The crossing represents a point of no return. It propels the Hero into a transformative adventure where they must navigate unfamiliar landscapes and grapple with the unexpected. It is a fundamental step in the Hero’s quest, shaping the narrative and setting the stage for the trials and revelations that await them.

Step 6: Tests, Allies, and Enemies

In the special world, the Hero faces a series of tests, encounters Allies who aid them, and confronts enemies who oppose them.

It is a dynamic phase that enriches the narrative with complexity and depth, showcasing the Hero’s adaptability and resilience in the face of diverse challenges. The tests serve as opportunities for growth and learning, while alliances provide crucial support and camaraderie on the Hero’s journey. Simultaneously, the emergence of enemies introduces tension and conflict, adding intrigue to the adventure.

This stage is essential in shaping the Hero’s character and determining their capacity to overcome obstacles toward their ultimate goal.

Step 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

The Hero approaches the Inmost Cave, metaphorically representing their ultimate goal or the heart of their Journey. This phase symbolizes the Hero’s descent into the heart of darkness, whether it be a physical location or a symbolic representation of their deepest fears and vulnerabilities.

This stage is laden with tension as the Hero prepares to confront the ultimate challenge, often personified by a formidable adversary or a hidden truth that lies at the core of their quest. The Journey into this inner sanctum represents a crucial moment of self-discovery for the Hero. It’s a time of reckoning as they grapple with the shadows lurking in the background.

It is a profound stage, rife with emotional and psychological intensity. It marks the Hero’s readiness to face the most significant Ordeal that will determine the trajectory of their entire quest.

Step 8: Ordeal

The Ordeal is the zenith of the Hero’s journey. It pushes them to their limits and forces them to confront their deepest fears.

It is a symbolic death and rebirth, a profound test that the Hero must endure to emerge transformed and ready for the final stages of their quest. This stage is charged with emotional intensity, suspense, and the potential for both failure and triumph.

The Ordeal marks a turning point in the narrative, representing the Hero’s resilience and capacity to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. It is a step that propels the story toward its climax, where the Hero will either rise victorious or succumb to the challenges they face.

Step 9: Reward

After overcoming the Ordeal, the Hero seizes the Reward, whether a physical object, knowledge, or a newfound understanding. This Reward represents the Hero’s growth and the transformation they have undergone.

This phase is characterized by a sense of fulfillment and the recognition of the Hero’s prowess. The Feward may take various forms, such as newfound knowledge, a valuable object, or the liberation of a captive. It serves as a testament to the Hero’s journey, highlighting the transformative nature of their experiences.

The Reward is a crucial pause in the narrative. It allows the Hero and the audience to reflect on the challenges overcome and the progress made, motivating them for the final leg of the quest.

Step 10: The Road Back

The Hero begins their journey back to the ordinary world, but the road is not without obstacles. They may face further challenges, tests, or even temptations that test their resolve and commitment to their transformation.

The Road Back marks the Hero’s transition from a period of Reward and preparation, propelling them back into the familiar realms of the known world. At this juncture, the Hero, equipped with newfound wisdom and enhanced abilities, braces for the imminent return.

This stage blends urgency with determination. The Hero navigates the integration of their transformative Journey into the ordinary world, setting the narrative on a course toward its final climax.

Step 11: Resurrection

In this step, the Hero faces their final hurdle, a climactic battle or confrontation representing their ultimate test. It is a moment of profound transformation and revelation, where the Hero emerges stronger, wiser, and forever changed.

The Resurrection is the pinnacle of the Hero’s journey, portraying intense transformation, sacrifice, and rebirth. It involves a final confrontation with a powerful adversary or internal obstacles, representing a symbolic death and subsequent resurrection into a new state of being.

This phase is marked by the Hero’s ultimate test, showcasing their courage and resilience in the face of the highest stakes. The Resurrection serves as the narrative climax, resolving the central conflict and illustrating the Hero’s evolution and triumph.

Step 12: Return with the Elixir

The Hero returns to their ordinary world, armed with the elixir, resurrection treasure they have gained on their journey. They bring back their newfound knowledge, ready to share it with their community and inspire change.

The Return with the Elixir is the culmination of the Hero’s journey. It symbolizes the triumphant return to the ordinary world with a boon, gift, or wisdom that promises positive transformation. This phase encapsulates the Hero’s final contribution to their community, demonstrating the enduring impact of their odyssey.

The Elixir may take various forms. It could be a tangible object, newfound knowledge, or a transformative quality that enriches both the Hero and the world they return to.

Examples of the Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey can be seen in countless stories throughout history and across various mediums. Let’s explore a few well-known examples to see how this narrative structure unfolds.

Harry Potter Series

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series follows the Hero’s Journey with Harry as the protagonist. He begins his journey in the ordinary world of the Dursleys, living an oppressed and ordinary life. When he receives his call to adventure, the letter from Hogwarts, he initially refuses it due to the resistance from his uncle. However, with the help of his Mentor, Hagrid, he crosses the Threshold into the wizarding world.

Throughout the series, Harry faces numerous tests, allies with friends like Ron and Hermione, and encounters enemies like Voldemort. He goes through trials, ordeals, and personal transformations as he approaches the Inmost Cave, leading to his final confrontation with Voldemort in the Resurrection stage. Finally, Harry returns with the Elixir, the knowledge and power to defeat evil. And brings peace to the wizarding world.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, is another prime example of the Hero’s journey. Frodo Baggins, the ring-bearer, begins his journey in the peaceful Shire, his ordinary world. When he receives the call to adventure to destroy the One Ring, he initially refuses it due to the burden and danger it entails. However, with the guidance of his Mentor, Gandalf, he accepts the quest and crosses the Threshold into the dangerous realms of Middle-earth.

Frodo faces tests, allies with the Fellowship of the Ring, and battles enemies like Sauron’s forces throughout his journey. He approaches the inmost cave, Mount Doom, where he must destroy the ring. The Ordeal tests his resilience and willpower, leading to his resurrection and ultimate success in destroying the ring. Frodo returns with the elixir, having saved Middle-earth from the dark forces and bringing peace to the land.

Tips for incorporating the Hero’s Journey into your storytelling

The Hero’s Journey provides a robust framework for crafting compelling and engaging stories. By combining the various stages and archetypes into their narrative, writers can create characters and plots that resonate with readers and viewers on a profound level.

Here are some tips to help you harness the power of this narrative framework:

  1. Understand the stages and archetypes. Familiarize yourself with the structure of the Hero’s Journey and the various archetypes in this narrative framework. This will provide a solid foundation for crafting your story.
  2. Adapt the framework to fit your narrative. The Hero’s Journey provides a general structure. So it’s essential to adapt it to suit your specific story and characters. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the traditional path if it serves your narrative better.
  3. Create multi-dimensional characters. The Hero’s Journey is not just about the Hero. It is also about the supporting characters (mentors, allies, heralds, shapeshifters, shadows, threshold guardians, tricksters) they encounter along the way. Make sure to develop well-rounded and compelling characters who serve different roles in the Hero’s journey.
  4. Embrace the transformative power of the journey. The Hero’s Journey is ultimately about personal growth and transformation. Allow your Hero to undergo a profound change throughout their journey, learning valuable lessons and overcoming their inner demons.

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

Joseph Campbell

How bibisco can help craft the Hero’s Journey

bibisco novel writer software can help writers to incorporate the Hero’s Journey archetype into their stories. With its features and functionalities, bibisco provides support in various stages of the writing process, helping shape narrative and characters.

Novel structure

bibisco offers a novel structure template that aligns well with the stages of the Hero’s Journey. Writers can organize their chapters following the Hero’s adventure, ensuring a smooth and engaging narrative progression.

Character Development

bibisco's character development tool in the article: What is the Hero's Journey?
bibisco’s character development tool

Through the dedicated character development section, bibisco helps writers thoroughly outline the protagonist and other key characters. bibisco’s tools allow exploration of the protagonist’s growth path, internal and external conflicts, and transformations throughout the story.

Relationship Analysis

bibisco's relationship analysis tool in the article: What is the Hero's Journey?
bibisco’s relationship analysis tool

bibisco enables writers to analyze relationships between characters, a crucial aspect of the Hero’s Journey. Identifying bonds and dynamics among the protagonist, allies, and antagonists contributes to creating a richer and more engaging plot.

Timeline Management

bibisco's timeline tool
bibisco’s timeline tool

bibisco’s timeline management function allows writers to plan and organize key events to reflect different stages of the Hero’s adventure. This helps maintain an engaging pace and ensures each phase of the story is adequately developed.

Notes and Ideas

With the ability to annotate ideas and thoughts directly within the application, bibisco helps writers capture and develop inspirations related to the Hero’s Journey as they arise. This feature facilitates the creative process, allowing authors to stay focused on essential plot components.

Conclusion: embracing the Hero’s Journey to captivate your audience

In conclusion, the Hero’s Journey proves to be an unparalleled guide for writers aspiring to create iconic and engaging stories. Exploring the classic stages of this epic adventure not only provides narrative structure but also delves deep into the hearts of characters and their transformations.

Facing the call to adventure, overcoming trials, and returning with the elixir form the foundation of indelible tales. Whether you are a novice writer or a seasoned author, the Hero’s Journey is a steadfast beacon for shaping stories that withstand the test of time and capture the reader’s imagination.

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