Crafting Your Story: The Hero's Journey
IT IS NO SECRET THAT STORYTELLING CAN BE AN EXTREMELY POWERFUL TOOL. A WELL-CRAFTED STORY HAS THE POWER TO CREATE AN INSTANT EMOTIONAL CONNECTION BETWEEN ITS HERO AND ITS AUDIENCE. BY INVOKING EMOTION, THE STORYTELLER CAPTURES THE AUDIENCE'S ATTENTION AND IMAGINATION.
The plot outlines the 'what and why' for things to happen, but the story is 'how' it is told. Without good storytelling, any plot will immediately fall flat on its face. The story pulls the viewer in to witness a change in everything we thought we knew about ourselves and the world around us.
From Homer's Odyssey to Jane Eyre; from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, stories have been told over centuries using a common framework. 'The Hero's Journey' is a term coined by Joseph Campbell in his book 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces'. He saw that myths and stories from across the globe followed exactly the same story structure.
The Hero's Journey
The full 'Hero's Journey' structure has 12 stages, which will often all be used multiple times in a film or novel. For the sake of telling our personal story, it is quite possible that not all of these will be necessary.
Ordinary World – The story begins by giving some context about the hero and the status quo. The character is introduced in a way that the audience can identify with sympathetically.
Call to Adventure – Something happens to change the situation, either from external factors or from within the hero. They start to feel called for something more.
Refusal of the Call – The hero feels fearful of the unknown and tries to refuse the call to adventure, even if only briefly.
Meeting with the Mentor – The hero meets an older an wiser mentor who gives them tools (training, tools or advice) that will help on the journey.
Crossing the Threshold – The hero leaves their familiar world and enters a new and unfamiliar one.
Tests, Allies and Enemies – The Hero is tested. Their allies and enemies in the Special World become clear.
Approach – The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge they are about to face in the Special World.
The Ordeal – The hero confronts death or faces their greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life of some kind.
The Reward – The Hero takes possession of the treasure as a reward for facing death.
The Road Back – The Hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to ensure the treasure is brought home.
The Resurrection – The Hero is once more tested on the threshold of home. They are purified by a last sacrifice, which forms another cycle of death and rebirth but on a higher level.
Return with the Elixir – The Hero returns (or continues their journey), bearing the treasure that has the power to transform the world as they have been themselves.
The story goes full cycle, from the known world to the unknown and back again, and from inside the comfort zone to very much outside of it and back again. The hero comes back to the same world, but is now in possession of a prize to share with the world.
Now start to break your story down for yourself...
… and see which of these stages are relevant to your own story. The aim is not to tick off every stage, but to highlight the important parts in your own story. This allows us to tell a story of deep inner transformation in a way that is guaranteed to engage our audience.
The most important elements in any story will be:
Ordinary World – Give you audience a clear but brief idea of the situation they were in. What was everyday life like? What were your biggest struggles?
Call to Adventure – What was the turning point that pushed you to make a change. This could either be your lowest point (maybe you had 12p in your pocket and no idea how you would eat tomorrow) or a newfound focus or motivation to make the change (perhaps your child was born and you were driven to make a change for all of you).
Crossing the Threshold + The Ordeal – Describe your journey into the unknown and how you confronted your fears and struggles, and what helped you to overcome them.
The Reward – Talk about what you gained as a result of facing your fears and struggles.
Return with the Elixir – Talk about your situation now. This is where you bring in your 'Why'. What is it that motivates you to bring your skills and wisdom to those you seek to help and how do you hope that it helps them on their own journeys?
Why not start writing your own – this really can be a great basis for sharing your story in an authentic and engaging way, and ultimately getting your message out there into the world.
Hi - I'm Fran Cresswell. I am a woman on a mission to spread the messages the world needs to hear. Through photography, videography and website design, I work with the individuals and organisations who strive to make the world a better place.
I can be found travelling the world, meeting all the beautiful humans, surfing or paddle boarding (very badly) and hunting down the best vegan brownies.