Storytelling: Top 10 Insights into the Hero's Journey
The Hero's Journey is a popular storytelling method of taking your main character through a quest or journey to achieve, through trial, a higher character development that usually results in a prize of great merit. This works well for genres like fantasy, some science fiction, and even some literary storytelling. From fables and myths to Pilgrim's Progress, The Hobbit and Eragon, taking the hero through his paces is a favorite.
While there are a few carved in chalk outlines to use for this journey, most range from seven to fourteen steps and incorporate religious, metaphysical, and psychological aspects.
Regardless of how many steps you decide to use, the following top 10 insights will help keep you on the journey structure and your hero heading in the right direction.
1. Call to Adventure
While the call to adventure for your hero is the inciting incident of your plot, this can take many forms. This pull from their mundane life can be enticing, forbidden, or the lure of danger. Or, maybe your hero is reluctant. Drag him kicking and screaming to the 'call'.
2. Supernatural Aid
Wizards, mages, sprites, and magical beings abound to help out the story's hero and often come bearing a magical element such as an amulet, ring, sword, or even more common object to aid the hero on his journey. Get creative with this item, because every other story taking the journey is going to have one, too.
This is the end of the hero's known world, end of comfort and ease; now they cross into danger. Mine this new field with obstacles and endurance tests. Make sure the reader knows this is new territory right from the start.
4. Mentors and Helpers
This is where you can bring in some of your more colorful characters and your hero's companions. These can be picked up along the way and give you a chance to show more of your world-building skills. Handpick these helpers and guides from regions through which your hero passes.
5. Challenges and Temptations
Here is a chance to play-up your hero's weaknesses or flaws. Show them resisting or giving in; maybe tempt your reluctant hero with the option to quit his journey. They can now renew their dedication to the journey by resisting and moving forward.
For fantasies, this is the turning point of the hero's story that reveals something awe-inspiring. This midway twist is the seam where death and rebirth are sewn. This is where your hero must push past everything and see the journey to its end. Now heart, soul, blood, and tears all pull the hero through the trial by fire.
By this time the hero has been reformed into a stronger character, shaped by resolve, becoming more perceptive and maybe more worldly or spiritual.
This stage may not be necessary for your hero, but in many hero arcs, there is a need for coming to terms with an authoritative figure in the protagonist's life. This can be a father figure or even an elevated being of another sort. The need for finding a common ground may be necessary for the hero to continue his journey or to go home again. Use this to make amends.
If your hero returns from the journey successfully, generally you'll want to reward them with a boon; keys to the city, the princess' hand, the throne, or other symbol of achievement. This may be something less tangible, too, such as peace over a troubled land or a curse lifted.
10. Story Theme or Message
You can convey some themes through the hero's journey; maybe the right path is always wisest, father knows best, character is built through sacrifice, or to one's own self be true. In this storytelling method, messages and themes are more apparent. You needn't necessarily shroud your theme as in other genres.
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