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The Hero’s Journey – Part 1

In every writing course I’ve ever undertaken, and there have been many, the instructors have always spoken about the archetype’s writers follow. One of which is The Hero’s Journey. Given that they are all published and successful writers – regardless of genre – and know what they’re talking about, you would assume I would have listened. I didn’t.

All along I’ve believed that archetypes are suggestions, not a written rule of proof. I have, over the years, given it no thought. I believed that my stories were going to be original and that they didn’t fit into a cookie cutter writing model. I allowed that to become an excuse. A reason for procrastination and the installation of a block that prevented me from writing for a long time.

I have been plotting away on a novel idea that I am considering using as the basis for this years upcoming National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a comedic fantasy. I’ve discussed the idea in here before. Given hint’s that the story line is about a trainee-God, made redundant after his prayer centre is outsourced to a cheaper location and how he tries to find his own truth, while making those around him happy.

It wasn’t until I read a blog post the other day that I recognised the story line for Divinity Inc is suggestive of the Hero’s Journey archetype. I went back to have a look at what I written and I realised I couldn’t have used that cookie cutter writing model more if I had actually tried.

The most famous recent version of the Hero’s Journey is George Lucas’ Star Wars films. It’s talked about in screenwriting classes as being the very definition of the journey. That George Lucas used the basic steps of archetype and that once you know those steps you can see them for yourselves in glorious technicolour.

This is the first of a 3 part post – I’ll be posting the other two parts in the next couple of weeks – that look at the archetype of the hero’s journey. The steps of the journey and how those steps work together to shape the final product you are creating.

It is also the reason I will be putting in much more effort in planning Divinity Inc. and may chose against throwing it against the wall during NaNoWriMo. During November I will write. Whether it’s a novel, a collection of short stories, or one of the million idea’s I’ve got in my idea’s notebook – not the one I threw out a fortnight ago dammit – I don’t know. For me, the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to make your writing a priority. To give it the space in your life you have to give your writing if it’s ever going to make the transition from brain to page or screen.

The Hero’s Journey Part 1: Departure

1. The Call To Adventure:

This is the beginning of the hero’s journey. The moment in the story where the character’s world is about to change completely. In Divinity Inc, it’s the announcement on a sleepy Monday morning that the Prayer Centre has been outsourced, and the God’s of Dallensford have been made redundant.

2: Refusal of the call:

This is where the hero frankly ignores the changes that are coming their way. It may be based on fear, or insecurity, but it boils down to being an attempt by the character to maintain the status quo, to try to keep going on their current path regardless of the changes that are now a reality.

3: Supernatural Aid:

This is where the character having committed to the ‘quest’ is in a position to recognise their guide has become known to them.

4: Crossing of the first threshold:

It is at this point in the Hero’s Journey that the hero takes the first steps to move into the field of their adventure, leaving behind what they know into an unknown realm. It’s the first real step of the character outside their known comfort zone. In Divinity Inc. this is where Simian leaves Dallensford for an adventure with Thorn, Head of Janitorial Services at Nirvana, Home of the Senile Gods.

5: The Belly of the Whale

It is in this section that the character show’s their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis. The separation of the known world has been made – or is being made – and the character steps up to the plate and prepares to face the challenges of the unknown world.

These points are pretty basic. Part of my journey in writing these posts is to clarify the steps for myself. Having spent so many years ignoring what is blatantly in front of me, writing here about my creative recovery and the power of the archetype is designed to aide me in shaping Divinity Inc.

Feel free to leave a comment about your views or thoughts on on the Hero’s journey below. Has knowing the points helped you to shape your own stories. Does knowing the framework help or hinder your creativity? Do you have any suggestions about the steps you use yourself when framing a story line that may help to bring Divinity Inc to an Amazon Kindle store near you sooner rather than later.

Next week I’ll put up a post on the middle section of the Hero’s Journey archetype: The Initiation.

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43 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. When he's not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

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