There’s a book I read many years ago called ‘The Writer’s Journey’ by Christopher Vogler. In it, Vogler has studied the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and how it has been applied to storytelling throughout the years. Campbell studied story telling through cultures and generations and found similar elements existed in all tales, more complex than just a beginning, middle and end. Campbell called this ‘The hero’s Journey’ and detailed how the hero would always be faced with certain challenges and hurdles. Vogler took this research and applied it to a more modern medium, film, making it much easier to comprehend and apply, as you have all the reference points in your head already. Vogler’s contention is that all films have The Hero’s Journey at their heart, and he goes on to give example and example of this applied to modern films. And it’s amazing.
If you don’t have this book, you need to get it, in my opinion it is essential reading for all writers. For example, George Lucas used Joseph Campbell’s research to write ‘Star Wars’, plotting out all the key notes based on The hero’s Journey – Vogler discusses this in intricate detail. Interestingly, Lucas used The Hero’s Journey again for ‘Willow’, applying the rules and plot points exactly as noted in Campbell’s research as something of a test to see if following them exactly would be a ticket to success (which, it alone, wasn’t, based on ‘Willow’’s box office performance). Vogler even breaks down ‘Pulp Fiction’ as a challenge in the book.
The thing is, when you read it you’ll note that most of the elements are already evident in your writing. You instinctively know story structure and pace from watching films and reading books, so a lot of it, you’ll fine, is already present in your work. But having the knowledge of how story structure works, understanding why each step happens when it does, all this is invaluable information to have and will help you solidify and strengthen your writing.
The below image breaks down the steps of The Hero’s Journey – some, if not most, of it won’t make any sense without the further context of the book, but these are the elements that occur, or should occur, in all stories in some form. I highly recommend all writer’s obtain a copy and go through it. Essential reading.