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The Hero's Journey

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Aqua Buddha, Apr 7, 2011.

  1. Aqua Buddha

    Aqua Buddha Scribe

    Has anyone here tried using Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey as a blueprint for their novel?

    I've been told that this is very popular with screenwriters, and that many major films (Star Wars, Lion King, etc.) have used this as a template.

    Have you had success with it?
  2. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    I don't like Joseph Campbell. I think he takes a handful of myths (far from all of them), overgeneralizes and sometimes picks and chooses the various branches of mythology (as early mythology was very subject to different versions of the same story) to prove a very general point about mythology. It's a bit like those "all stories are one of these 21" when half of them are like "guy wants thing, guy struggles to get thing, guy gets thing", which is just the structure of a plot. It's nothing genius. As for the hero's journey, it is certainly prevalent in fiction, but I don't actively follow it because it doesn't follow my characters or their motivations, so why would I? My protagonist is called to adventure, faces a couple of temptations (less so challenges), has a relatively minor revelation (but he doesn't change at all because of it), and he returns home. Skips several rather important steps in his circle, but I'm not going to change them for the sake of... whatever it is we hope to get from following his steps.
  3. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    ^ That.

    Formulas aren't the way to create novels. Okay, fine, if you want a rubbish novel that will nevertheless sell well because people have no taste, then formulas might just work, but I'd rather retain my integrity, write something I enjoy writing and would like to read, and tell a story which is entirely my own, about my characters and how they act, not about a set path that is always essentially the same and very predictable. Where's the fun in being predictable? I mean, when I watch shows like NCIS and Bones on TV, I like to guess whodunnit and stuff, but I like being wrong just as much as I like being right - if I'm right, it's because I've spotted the clues and read the characters right, not because it's predictable, and if I'm wrong, it's usually a far better and more interesting solution than I thought of.
  4. Spend a little time reading "The Writer's Journey", by Vogler. Not every story needs every step of the "journey" platform. But most well-written stories have many of the elements, and they tend to be in order as well.

    The "Hero's Journey" isn't a formula, really. It's a discussion of plot at its most fundamental level - what plot is, how it works, WHY it works. Just like the "21 plots" Ophiucha is talking about are really just discussions of conflict as it relates to plot at the fundamental level.

    These things aren't supposed to *be* the story, is my understanding. You're not supposed to use it as a blueprint or outline. They're a tool for understanding some of the human nature that lies beneath what makes stories reach people.
  5. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

    Agree. Campbell can be used as a "blueprint" for a story… but so can Little Red Riding Hood, or any story at all. (And would be as true of Campbell if he'd simply gave the blueprint without making a single reference to mythology… one does not need the support of dubious scholarship to create an outline.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017

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