This post is part of a series of posts sponsored by SCBWI Florida Tampa Bay area writers. We invite you to join us in this online book study of THE WRITER’S JOURNEY: MYTHIC STRUCTURE FOR WRITERS, Third Edition by Christopher Vogler.
Book 1, pages 1-36
Contributor: Shannon Hitchcock
Christopher Vogler says, “The hero’s story is always a journey.” He defines a hero as the character who usually:
1. Learns or grows the most.
2. Has the most action.
3. Is connected with self-sacrifice.
Sacrifice is the true mark of a hero. As readers we identify with him and see the world through his eyes.
There are several types of heroes:
1. Willing & Unwilling.
2. Anti-heroes, (e.g. Robin Hood, villain in the eyes of society, but the reader sympathizes with him).
3. Group Oriented Heroes.
4. Loner heroes – think Clint Eastwood.
5. Catalyst Heroes, (e.g. Eddie Murphy’s character Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop. Axel doesn’t change very much during the movie, but the other characters change because of him)
Once we meet and identify with the hero, we’re ready to go on a journey with him. It can be an outward journey to an actual place, or an inward journey of the mind, the heart, and the spirit.
Christopher Vogler uses a twelve-stage heroes journey. It goes like this:
1. Most stories start in the ordinary world; Dorothy’s story started in Kansas.
2. In the ordinary world, our hero receives a call to adventure.
3. The hero is often reluctant and refuses the call,
4. But is encouraged by a mentor to accept the challenge.
5. The hero enters the special world where he encounters tests, allies, and enemies.
6. In the special world, the hero approaches the inmost cave, (the most dangerous place, like Indiana Jones entering The Temple of Doom).
7. He endures the ordeal,
8. Takes possession of the reward,
9. And is pursued back to the ordinary world, (often there’s a great chase scene).
10.Death and darkness make one last attempt to defeat our hero.
11.He overcomes the final challenge and is transformed.
12.In the end, the hero returns from his quest to benefit the ordinary world.
As I was reading and studying these stages, I tried to make my novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL fit neatly into the twelve steps. JESSIE is not a precise fit. That made me skeptical until I came across this passage, “The stages can be deleted, added to, and drastically shuffled without losing any of their power.” In other words, the structure is a tool, a way to think through plot, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be followed to the letter. When I consider the stages in those terms, I can see how they might help me.
How about the story you’re currently crafting? Does it fit neatly into the twelve stages of the hero’s journey? If not, what stages have you added, left out, or shuffled? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
Meet Today’s Contributor—Shannon Hitchcock
Shannon Hitchcock is a Tampa based freelance writer. Her debut novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL was published by namelos in 2013, and her latest novel, CAROLINA GIRLS is under contract with Scholastic. You can learn more about Shannon at http://www.shannonhitchcock.com.