As a writer, you may have heard of the hero’s journey – but do you know how to use it in your own work?
The hero’s journey is a narrative framework that has been used in countless stories, both fiction and non-fiction. It was first popularized by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
At its core, the hero’s journey is about a character who goes on a journey, faces challenges, and ultimately transforms in some way. The journey typically includes three main stages: the departure, the initiation, and the return.
Let’s take a look at those now…
The 3 Stages of the Hero’s Journey
- The Departure: This is the stage where the hero is called to adventure, but hesitates before embarking on the journey. They may be reluctant, but ultimately decide to take on the challenge.
- The Initiation: This is the stage where the hero faces challenges and learns important lessons. This is where the bulk of the story takes place and where the hero undergoes significant changes.
- The Return: This is the stage where the hero returns home, having been transformed by their journey. They may struggle to integrate their new insights and abilities into their old life, but ultimately they are able to do so.
Using the Hero’s Journey in Your Writing
One of the best things about the hero’s journey is that it can be applied to any type of story. Whether you’re writing a novel, a memoir, or even a business book, the hero’s journey can help you structure your narrative and make it more compelling and persuasive.
A great example of the hero’s journey in action is the fantasy novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The story follows four children who enter a magical world and, with the help of a lion named Aslan, defeat the White Witch and bring peace to Narnia. The children are the heroes of the story who go on a journey, face challenges, and are positively transformed by their experiences.
An example of the hero’s journey in a non-fiction work is the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. This book tells the true story of the author’s journey of self-discovery as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone. The departure is when she decides to hike the trail, the initiation is when she faces the physical and emotional challenges of the trail, and the return is when she comes back home and reflects on her journey.
Putting the 3 Stages of the Hero’s Journey into Action
- The Departure: Introduce your main character and their ordinary world. Show what their life is like before they are called to adventure. This could be through a problem they are facing, a longing they have, or a sense of dissatisfaction with their current life.
- The Initiation: As your character embarks on their journey, make sure to include a series of trials and challenges for them to overcome. These challenges should push them to their limits and force them to change and grow in order to overcome them.
- The Return: Once your character has completed their journey, it’s important to show how they have been changed and how they are able to integrate those changes into their ordinary life. This could be through a final confrontation with their main antagonist, or a resolution of the main conflict in the story.
Also, keep in mind that the hero’s journey is not a linear progression, it can loop and go back and forth, and it’s not necessary that the hero successfully completes the journey; it can end in failure as well.
You can also use the hero’s journey as a lens through which to view and shape your story, rather than a strict blueprint to follow.
Finally, be aware that the hero’s journey is not just about the hero – but about the people around the hero and how the journey affects them too.
Take the First Step
As you can see, the hero’s journey is a powerful tool for writers, but it’s just one of many ways to structure a story. Take the time to understand it and experiment with it in your own writing. And remember, the most important thing is to always tell a strong and captivating story.
So, take the first step on your own hero’s journey as a writer. Use this timeless framework to bring depth and meaning to your work. And see how it can help you tell better stories that resonate with your readers.
Happy and heroic writing!