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Sunday, January 13, 2013
The Hero's Journey
I've noticed that these notes have started circulating over the internet (the images too although they are not that great hahaha).
Today I've decided to talk about one of the most solid structure you can apply to your story.
It does not matter whether it's long or short, epic or comical, it always works somehow.
This theory, to be applied in scriptwriting, was developed by Christopher Vogler who analyzed a book by anthropologist Joseph Campbell called "The Hero with a thousand faces".
You'll find plenty of Vogler's graphs online but for my students and for myself I came up with a short silly comic of sorts. (Again the drawings are not that great).
So here's the Hero's Journey in 12 steps.
1) The Ordinary World
Meet our hero, Pretty Boy, surrounded by his everyday life... in his natural environment.
Pretty boy likes mountains, read books about them, loves his goldfish Goldie, and hates dogs.
(star wars: Luke goes about his life with uncle and auntie)
2) Call to Adventure
(star wars: Luke finds Leia's message while cleaning the droids).
3) Refusal of the call
(star wars: obi wan asks Luke to go with him and the boy initially refuses).
4) The Mentor
(star wars: Obi Wan says he will teach Luke the way of the force Luke still says no).
What needs to happen now is an insighting accident this is also considered to be our first plot point or Plot Point 1 (we have two p.p. in a story, so as I remind my students "in a story we pee pee twice, huh").
This accidents flips the ordinary world upside down somehow or makes the hero feel that things could never go back to normal now that this thing has happened.
(star wars: uncle and auntie are killed by the stormtroopers).
5) Crossing the Threshold
So the hero goes... with one extra motivation - the accident.
This represents the end of Act I of our story.
What follows is a huuuuge development, a series of "and then" (and then this happens, and then that happened, and then he went in, and then he fought, and then he met this guy)... and things gets progressively worse and worse and more complicated.
So what does Act II mainly contain?
Well first of all this:
6) Test - Enemies - Allies
(star wars: Luke and Obi vs. the empire - the plan is to destroy the Death Star).
(star wars: Han Solo and Chewbacca)
(star wars: Han Solo and Chewbacca)
Then come the tests and they get harder and harder as we go along.
Climbing is piece of cake for our Pretty Boy!
(star wars: Luke's knowledge about mechanical stuff comes in handy at times, eh?).
(star wars: Leia is rescued)
7) Approaching the Inmost cave
There's usually a moment of quiet before the storm hits. This is the moment where the hero prepares himself because what he is about to confront could see him triumphant or leave him for dead.
He is about to confront his greatest fears too and his biggest enemy.
(star wars: the rebels prepare to attack).
Climax of our story which is also known to be the Hero's...
8) Supreme Ordeal
During the Climax the hero will be left for dead a couple of times, the audience will believe he's dead and I don't mean only physically I mean psychologically too.
Now star wars does not help us much in this case so I'll skip to the greatest Supreme Ordeal Luke has ever lived througout the trilogy: meeting Dart Vader in Empire Strikes back.
"Oh, my God, I am so weak, I am such a coward, I cannot do this!" and then stand up and fight, for example.
Luke's reaction was "that's not true, that's impossible!" - he failed his supreme ordeal and had to come back in a third movie as a Jedi - well he wasn't ready anyway, Yoda had said. - but he had taken a strong hold on which side of the force he would chose so he did win his own integrity.
But if the hero resists and even as he is left for dead find in himself a little bit of strenght to stand up and fight back...
...reaches the moment called:
By the way our act II transition into act III across this moment as the climax reaches its end.
9) Seizing the sword
In Tim Burton's Alice in whateverland movie... Alice actually holds a sword and fights a dragon.
I prefer to work this way because seizing the sword still does not mean the hero will survive and I still think the hero has to be left for dead at some point.
But it's true that these particular elements could be put in any order as the end result would not change much.
In some cases Death and Rebirth happens now (I think that's too linear and is also too literal, in some stories the Hero actually dies and is resurrected by the end of the story and then fights back - at times it feels as if the whole thing was penned down by writing shortcut sentences next to the structure and then the whole thing got developed into paragraphs and dialogues).
10) The Road Back
So Pretty Boy has won for Goldie and now can go back home.
In a way the:
11) Death and Rebirth
We welcome the new Pretty Boy.
(star wars: this is were Luke is celebrated as a hero)
At times the Return with elixir happens before but there are stories where... the moral of the story comes last.
12) Return with the Elixir
He is now a brave hero who has understood his own nature, has reached his goal, conquered his dream, confronted and overtook the nature of the conflict and overcome his fears.
All the character in The Pirate Balthasar go through a personal hero's journey. Can you recognize the different stages?
Writing tips index.