My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 7 – The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey


stardustThe Hero’s Journey, or Monomyth, is a basic pattern for recognizing the major developments in the journey of the main character. It seems that almost every story ever told, from antiquity to modern day, follows this pattern with probably up to 90% completion of every step listed. For the writer who properly understand the hero’s journey, they will develop the ability to predict with reasonable accuracy the outcome of most stories and will have the tools necessary to develop compelling and exciting plots.

The rebels out there are screaming, “Not me! You can’t put me in a box!” Don’t be that way. You’re going to write a bad story. This is not a set of rules, per se. It is an observation over time of how stories work, just like the Law of Gravity came about by the observation of something that naturally existed. The reason the hero’s journey is so prevalent in so many stories is because it is simply the story of life. The ups and downs of life, the dreams and fears, the expectations and goals, the adventurous and romantic spirits…these are things that are part of our lives. It shapes us, our families, our ambitions, our careers, our hobbies. And what so many writers over the ages have done is simply to try to record life. Although often glorified or romanticized, these stories resonate because we want to put ourselves into them, to live them out and take the experiences of the hero as our own. We see ourselves in the hero. We recognize our faults, failures, and successes in those pages.

A good story is a reflection of life. That is why a good story can almost always be described in terms of the hero’s journey, whether the writer intended it to or not. Because a good writer wants to write good stories. Good stories are about life, and the hero’s journey is  life.

Joseph Campbell is recognized for his work in developing seventeen major steps for proper development of the hero’s journey. For those who enjoy the deeper methods of how stories are developed, I’ll include Campbell’s steps alongside my own. But I’ve found that a condensed ten step process is easier to handle while plotting and outlining fiction. Please note that as you begin to use this to analyze your own or some other writer’s stories, that the steps may not appear in the story in any particular order. They might not even all be included. But most stories will have at least eight or nine of these ten steps. On the other hand, keep on the look out for variations of the steps used with multiple characters or even villains and anti-heroes. Genres also make a difference in how it unfolds. A comedy might utilize these steps differently than a tragedy.

Here are my ten steps of the hero’s journey, with the Campbell equivalents notated with each.

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My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 4 – Story Genotype

Story Genotype


This way of classifying a story is perhaps one of the most important yet overlooked items. It’s easily confused with genre…probably because there are a few common genres which actually double as a genotype. Yet there is a distinct difference. Genre is best understood as the designation of the story’s setting, style, and audience. Essentially, it is how the story relates to the reader. (See the previous article in the series on Genre.) So root that firmly in your brain as we go forward.

Genotype is how the story relates to the characters in the book. The characters aren’t experiencing a genre of setting, style, and audience. They are experiencing life…their lives. Genotype helps us to understand what aspect of life that they are experiencing. This has a TREMENDOUS effect on how plot and characters are developed, because plot and character development are directly related to the experiences of the characters. Let’s look at a few examples.

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My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 3 – Story Genre

Story Genre


So you think you know what Story Genre is, huh? It can be best understood as a story’s designation of setting, style, and audience. Other definitions include form, content, and technique. What needs to be keyed in on here is that Story Genre moves the READER through the story, or the author’s means of connecting the reader to the story. Don’t confuse this with Story Genotype, which I’ll talk about next time, which moves the MAIN CHARACTERS through the story, or is the author’s way of connecting the main characters to the story. What do I mean? In genre, setting and style are most important. The characters are unaffected by this, it is the reader that bears the impact.

For instance, consider setting. A Western is characterized by a “cowboy” type setting, usually mid to late 1800’s. The characters are unaffected because it’s simply a reflection of their normal world. This setting designation is used to connect the reader to that world.

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