Saturday, October 5, 2013



Joseph Campbell, American writer and scholar, identified a pattern of storytelling that has evolved and been perpetuated  down the centuries.  He called it The Hero's Journey.   To describe it as a template would trivialize it but nevertheless there are identifiable elements.  We see it most particularly in the fantasy genre:   Think of Lord of the Rings.

I've attended workshops dealing the stations of the Hero's Journey Outline, often depicted in a circle.   It begins with the introduction of the hero or heroine who is depicted in a sympathetlc way. You like the person;  you can identify with them. You find out a little about their background and personal history.   But, there's a problem and our hero is going to act heroically and find a solution.

First there is the Call to Adventure.   This is something that has occurred, usually outside the hero's control, that provides an impetus to action.  There then follows, in numbered sequence, the various stages of the action.  The hero is at first afraid but after meeting with someone wiser who provides some assistance, he decides to proceed.  He meets with allies, comes to face problems and makes a plan.   Somewhere in the middle of the story the ultimate challenge is faced and our hero is victorious.   On the journey home, maybe three quarters of the way through the story, there is a challenge to the victory, maybe in the form of a chase.  There is a final confrontation and great danger.  At the end, the hero is victorious and is himself transformed as is the world he now inhabits.

I've compressed the steps--there are twelve in all.  

It would be difficult to underestimate the influence of The Hero's Journey but I read an article recently that attributed some of the sameness that Hollywood blockbusters can seem to have to a slavish devotion to the form.   

In a similar vein, I have read advice to writers which advises that the reader must be grabbed by the throat, in the words of one description, in the first chapter, the first page or even the first line.  Otherwise, the reader will stop reading the preview and definitely not purchase the book.   Again, this must inevitably lead to a feeling of deja vu;   somehow we've read all this before.

What's the solution?

No comments:

Post a Comment