• CJ Hawthorne

Hero’s Journey

Hello humans! Hope you had a good Easter. April is a busy month, but it was great starting it off with a holiday!

This week I thought I‘d deal with one of my personal favorite methods of storytelling: the hero’s journey. This is a step by step story structure that I learned back in middle school, and I’ve used it for all of my stories since, even augmented it a little to reflect my understanding. Even if planning isn’t your thing, this is a great way to form a rough outline in your head. From it, the rest of the story can grow into something beautiful. There are twelve steps to the hero’s journey; without further ado, here they are!

  1. The Ordinary World: This is where your story begins. Your main character is just chillin at home. Maybe they’re unhappy for some reason, maybe there are hints of future problems that will develop into the plot. But this first step is a setup and introduction to the story to come.

  2. The Call to Adventure: Pretty much what it sounds like. An inciting incident occurs, prompting your character to take action. Or it could quite literally be a call, a la The Hobbit. But we can’t all have Gandalf walk into our lives calling for adventurers, now can we?

  3. Refusal of the Call: This step is sort of optional, but it usually appears in some form or another. The protagonist is reluctant to go on the journey, or an obstacle appears that would keep them from going. As with a lot of these steps, this moment of refusal might not occur specifically between The Call and the Meeting of the Mentor. A lot of these steps can be moved around to fit your individual story.

  4. Meeting the Mentor: Again, this one could occur earlier or later than the outline would suggest. Your character meets someone wise who can show them the ropes of adventuring and encourages them to take a chance.

  5. Crossing the Threshold: With the help of the mentor, your character takes that definitive leap into the unknown. There is no turning back from this point. And here’s where the fun begins.

  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: This is the meat of your story, the miscellaneous adventures, the training montages and character quests. Your character is now in the midst of their journey, which brings excitement, challenges, and maybe a few new allies (or enemies, as the title suggests). The adventure builds up through a series of events until...

  7. The Ordeal: Your character is finally tested by the full force of their antagonist, and it doesn’t go well. They lose a critical battle, find themselves beaten down and possibly alone. You can pack some real heart wrenching stuff into this section. Think, what’s the worst thing that could go wrong? And make it happen.

  8. The Cave (Low Point): In the aftermath of their defeat, your hero is demoralized. They have a moment of wanting to give up, or maybe their resolve never fades, but they are physically incapacitated. This is their lowest point, their darkest moment.

  9. Seizing of the Sword: From their darkest moment, your hero finds something... a weapon, a friend, or maybe a private revelation, something that gives them the strength to go on. They resurrect and come back stronger than ever, ready to take on the antagonist, for real this time.

  10. Climax: Here we go. The final battle. Newly prepared, your hero takes on the antagonist with all of their newfound resolve. They may have a moment of near defeat, or lose something dear to them, but in the end, they triumph! Or not, if you wanna be depressing about it. You do you.

  11. Return: Left with the aftermath of the battle, your hero tries to return to a sense of normalcy. Whether this means literally going home or adapting to a new life, your hero is left to reflect on what has happened and how it has changed them.

  12. Conclusion: The elements of your story come together and are wrapped up in a little bow. The end!

Now, this is just a template to work from. All of these steps can be rearranged, omitted, or flipped on their heads as you choose. It’s the getting creative that makes it fun! I hope you guys find this useful! Have a great week, and until next time, fly safe!

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