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How flexible is the Hero's Journey?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by EccentricGentleman, Apr 15, 2015.

  1. Lately I came up with a plot for the book I'm working on. But recently I've been reading the Writer's Journey to better learn the Hero's Journey.

    I'm familiar with the concept and that it is a flexible paradigm. But I do not know how flexible.

    My writing teacher told me that any of the stages of the hero's journey could be omitted, rearranged or even repeated. But I don't know how far that can be extended.

    On the one hand I am very creative and don't like having any kind of rules telling me what to do. On the other hand I am always determined to stick strictly to whatever instructions are needed.

    He is the hero's journey a set of stages where each one must be strictly included and in order?
    Can the stages be rearranged anyway I like and still work?
    Do all of these stages necessarily have to happen to the main character or can some of them happen to supporting characters instead?
  2. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Totally flexible. You don't have to use it at all. It's just a thing some guy made up, ya know?
  3. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    ^ What Mytho said.

    I've read stories that skip the first few stages, stories that skip the last few, and stories that take stages from the beginning or the middle and put them at the end. You can omit or rearrange any part of the Journey that you like and still tell a well-structured story. And supporting characters can definitely complete some of the stages -- even Star Wars, which follows the formula quite directly, gives one or two of the stages to Han Solo.
  4. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    The Hero's Journey is a pattern that many stories follow, and a tool for analyzing works that have already been written. It's not really meant as a ruleset or proscription when creating stories.
  5. But you cab't put "The Ordinary World" last or the "Return with the elixir" first can you?
    If you can put them in any order, why are they in a specific order in my book?
    Would my story be better if I used them all?
    If it is so flexible, why is it so flexible?
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Why can't you put Return With the Elixir first, and then follow a story onward from that point. You wouldn't be writing the Hero's Journey, per se, but as noted above, you don't have to write the Hero's Journey.

    The ordering should be what makes the most sense for your story. You could probably build a story around them in any order, but why are they in a certain order for your book? Because that's the order that works best for your story, right? If it's not, use a different order.

    Honestly, unless you're consciously setting out to create a Hero's Journey, or to make some commentary on the Hero's Journey story pattern, I wouldn't worry much about this.
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Sure you could, if that was the kind of story you wanted to tell. There really is no limit to the ways you can tell a story. "The Hero's Journey" is just, as mentioned above, the pattern that one guy saw in a bunch of myths he studied. But even in the myths, whether or not they abide by the pattern is often very, very debatable, and there are tons of myths that don't follow the pattern he found. The Hero's Journey is, at best, a pattern found in SOME stories. I have no idea why you would think all stories should follow it.
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Story archtypes are extremely flexable. To put it another way. If you were designing a vehicle using the sedan archtype, how many different ways can you design that vehicle? How crazy could you get before you couldn't call that vehicle a sedan any more?

    But as others have mentioned above, if you're intent on changing it up so much, why worry about it then. Just write the story how you want to.
  9. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror


    I certainly think you could, and the basis for it is already common enough. The 'elixir' from one story is the 'call to adventure' in the next (for example: The Hobbit has Bilbo brings home the ring, which is what calls Frodo to his adventure in Lord of the Rings). It wouldn't be hard to write a novel that simply starts with the hero coming home from some other adventure, and to have their spoils of war lead them into their next journey.

    And ending on the 'Ordinary World' is uncommon, but it could be argued that this is how any story where the hero actually gets to retire ends (non-conditional, no 's/he misses the action' or 'going to die when they get called back for ~one final mission~). Stories where the hero isn't famous or wealthy, but they're happy with a family and genuinely enjoy their job as a farmer or whatever.
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

    You can do what you want. You don't even have to use those concepts to describe your work.

    No one can tell you if your story would be better if you used them all, without knowing your story quite well.

    Beware being a slave to even a well respected "formula."
  11. Ok, on a related topic, why is the Hero's Journey so effective?
    Is it purly nerological? Does a story with these elements have a positive effect on the human brain? Like entering the correct pin number unlocks a door?

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