The Hero’s Journey

Week 9 of the novel writing program is in the rear view. I’m one third of the way there! It was an exciting week, not only because I lost some critical information I had stored only on my iPad. (Please, for the love of all that is holy writ, take a moment now to back up your files. I’ll hold.)

TheHeroWithAThousandFacesGreat, you’re back.

Week 9 was about the hero’s journey.

Joseph Campbell summarized it in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

I thought my main character was not a hero, and my novel was not a fantasy, therefore going through the paces of the hero’s journey would be a monumental waste of time. This exercise showed me once again that I often have no idea what I’m talking about, and even less idea about what I’m doing. And I’m very happy to report that I was wrong!

English: This image outlines the basic path of...

As I read through the 17 stage process, I realized a lot of the scenes I’ve written do fit the path, and where this really comes in handy is in the organization process– deciding the order in which things need to happen. I made a chart of the 17 steps, plugged in all the scenes I’ve got done (or plan to do), then brainstormed a few more to fill in the gaps. John Dufresne doesn’t advocate writing an outline, so I hadn’t had one. But this chart feels very outline-ish, and maybe I’m an outline girl at heart (sorry, Uncle John!).

I have such clear direction now about where the novel is headed. I highly recommend this if you’re stuck in your process. It’s worth a shot!

screen shot of my hero’s journey…before it disappeared!

Here’s a Hero’s Journey (blank PDF) if you want to try it out.

As you can see from the Wikipedia explanation of the Monomyth, it looks strictly for magical stories. There are lots of examples from stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings.

My novel is not fantastic in the sense of fairy godmothers, evil sorcerers and the like, and the journey aspect of it is more of the internal, soul-searching variety. My MC is tempted not by a woman, but by her own rekindled feelings for an old beau she can never be with; her atonement comes not with a father figure, but with her own mind.

I’ve been promising myself a silent retreat for when the time comes to really write this thing. This week I feel ready for that weekend away. If I could sit down in a quiet room right now, with no distractions, I’m confident I could bust out the bulk of the novel in a few days.

I plan to use this for my next novel, and a whole lot earlier in the process. I’ve always felt daunted by Nanowrimo, but with the story mapped out like this, it seems doable!


3 thoughts on “The Hero’s Journey”

  1. I really appreciate you sharing this information; very informative. I always thought I knew what was meant by “The Hero’s Journey”. You just let me see that I didn’t have a clue. Like you, I’ve instinctively reflected these steps in my writing, but what a cool way to start doing these “myths” deliberately and with purpose. I posted a link to this post on my Facebook author page, I hope that’s okay but if not, let me know and I’ll ditch it.



    1. I’m glad you found it helpful! I like knowing what the formulas are, the “rules” so to speak– then I can get busy breaking them. Totally cool linking to your Fb page. Everything here is 100% shareable. =)


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