Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is an archetypal story pattern, and you see in ancient stories and modern ones. It is not a “new” idea that someone thought up, rather, its representative that people ALWAYS think in narrative form. It looks like this.

(credit to Reg Harris for the image) 

Joseph Campbell was the one to fully synthesize and flesh out the concept 

If you are a writer, marketer, community builder, etc, you NEED to know the concept and understand how your positioning fits into it.

The Hero’s Journey has a simple structure:

  • Act 1-The beginning, ordinary world, the departure 
  • Act 2-the middle, the magical world, the initiation and drama
  • Act 3-the end, the return to the beginning but changed, close and resolution

This structure follows the Way that people THINK in general. Beginning, middle, end. Start, conflict, resolution. The human mind is a narrative engine. We cannot NOT think in terms of Story.

Getting more detailed, Josh Campbell laid out 12 Stages to the journey.

1. Ordinary or Mundane World

This is regular life, and the hero is a regular guy. This the boring world where nothing happens, his life isnt special. The Hero is relatable. The Hero in the beginning will be presented 3 ways 

-ordinary guy, underdog 

-social outcast, orphan 

-special circumstances, protected from the world

These are not hard and fast categories. Point being, his life is regular.

The World the hero lives in usually 2 or 3 ways 

  • Good Kingdom – Abundant and beautiful place he must save from destruction and threat
  • Wasteland – ugly place that he must REDEEM, usually from a tyrant or evil force
  • Stasis – Suburbia place that’s neither good or bad. In this case the Hero is either going to enliven it (think Footloose), or destroy it because its too far gone into darkness (think Watchmen)

2. Call to Adventure 

Call to Action basically. The Hero gets a request, usually from a quasi mystical figure, or in some sort of extraordinary situation. This situation removes the Heros ability to stay in regular life

3. Refusal of the Call

The Hero may refuse this, accept it, or resign themselves to it. Depending on the Sliding scale of Optimism or Cynicism, the refusal can take on different forms. Hero might Jump at the chance. Hero might refuse

Hero might be self aware and think they are resigned to just being an instrument of fate and have no free will. This all varies on who is telling the story and what the setting is

4. Meeting the Mentor

The Mentor is the one that pushes the Hero to accept the call, and will be their guide through the journey. Often the hero receives some sort of magical item a this point, this may take the place of the mentor in some cases. The Mentor stage can also be the training stage, the Hero accepts, and now his preparation for the adventure begins. Think Rocky Training sequences. Those get you fired up because they are preparation for the adventure (that you’re probably too scared to go)

5. Crossing the threshold 

The Hero is finally leaving, and he will encounter some struggles (threshold guardians). Leaving is never perfectly easy, some challenge must be defeated (or sacrifice made) to leave regular world behind

6. The Land of adventure, and Allies and enemies 

Magical world/real world is NOT the same as ordinary/mundane world. The rules are different, people have powers, everything is more dangerous. This when the Hero meets allies, and encounters enemies

This stage can go on for quite awhile. This is when the Great Enemy/Villain becomes aware of the Hero. His normal adolescent trials can be turned into mystical/magical experiences/tests. He might might meet a Damsel-in-Distress and need to save her (depends)

I didn’t finish writing this. Go get the book.

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