The hero's journey is a way of understanding story - all story. Myths, legends, movies, books - all kinds of stories are really, in some ways, the same story. And that story is the story of a journey, of a quest of some kind whether it's a physical quest (searching for the grail or a lost child or a new home) or an emotional one (searching for love or power). Stories help us in all sorts of ways as readers or viewers.
- They allow us to compare ourselves to others - are we better or worse? are we doing the right thing or the wrong thing?
- They entertain us
- They help us see patterns in the world, in our lives
- They help us to ask questions of ourselves. Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a god?
- They give us handles on all these kinds of questions.
But the hero's journey is a way of seeing story in a way that makes sense to almost everyone, even if they haven't studied Joseph Campbell or read myths or legends.
In its simplest form, the hero's journey is the story of a person starting out in the ordinary world, who leaves to descend into the special world (the unknown, whether physical or not), goes through some tests, wins the ultimate test, and returns back to the ordinary world as, hopefully, a better and wiser person.
Christopher Vogler has the hero's journey laid out in twelve stages and each week for the next twelve weeks, I'm going to muse here on Sundays about my ideas on each stage of the journey. Some of it will be what I'm working on, what I'm reading, what movies I'm seeing, and some of it will be ways that you can incorporate this into your book - and maybe not just your book, but your life as well.
Chris Vogler says that studying the hero's journey has made it easier for him to travel, that once he understood this structure, he understood how all journeys could work - I wonder if that will be true for us as well?