The Hero’s Journey has lots of parts some big, some small. Not every one is necessary for a successful plot. I’m going to focus on the most common aspects. The Hero’s Journey is not just for high fantasies. It can work for every type of fiction out there, even mystery and romance which have their own specific plot arcs as well. I will endeavor to show how different book in different genres use the Hero’s Journey. I’m also going to break it up into my three main plot parts Intro to Conflict, Conflict, and Resolution to Conflict.

  • Intro to Conflict
    1. Call to Adventure
      The moment when the action is thrust on the protagonist.
      In Chasing Vemeer this is when the painting is stolen and the teacher interests the class in the thefts. For Jo in Little Women it’s when she decides to rescue the poor boy next door. Sometimes the call is refused like in The Last Starfighter. Ultimately, though something happens to make the protagonist agree to go on the adventure or enter in the conflict.
    2. Meeting of the Mentor
      When the protagonist meets the person who will help guide him/her on the path.
      In any of the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boy mysteries this is when Nancy or the boys go their respective fathers for advice.
  • Conflict
    1. Crossing the First Threshold
      This is where the hero truly commits to the conflict.
      This is where the main kid teaches Zero to read in exchange for hole digging. He knows it may get him in trouble, but he still does it anyway.
    2. Tests, Allies, and Villians
      The hero tries to resolve the conflict, often unsuccessfully. On the way, he meets friends and enemies.
      Fairy tales are the quintessential example. The heroes in these try to solve their conflicts two times before succeeding on the third. Think “The Three Little Pigs.”
    3. The Ordeal
      This is the ubër-confrontation where the hero must succeed or die, metaphorically speaking. Eliza must pass at the ball or be exposed in My Fair Lady (not a children’s book, but a different genre.) In Twilight it’s Bella’s confrontation with James in the dance studio.
  • Resolution of Conflict
    1. Reward
      The battles been fought and the hero has won. Now he gets that item he’s been seeking. In Gossip Girlswhatever girl gets whatever guy or thing she’s been wanting. Meg gets her father and brother back in Wrinkle in Time.
    2. Way Back
      On the way back stuff happens that can still jeopardize everything. They decide that they are not going to open the territory to settlers, so in Little House on the Prairie Laura’s family might move again.
    3. Ressurection
      This is the climax, the character’s last chance to grow. The main conflict may be past, but the hero still has to change to reenter his normal world. In Peter and the Starcatchers and its sequels, Peter always has one last encounter with Black Stache (Hook). This is where the mystery gets solved in every book.

Well, that sums it up. You’ll probably have questions since it’s hard to adequately discuss this stuff in a short post. Again, I strongly recommend Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. There’s an Amazon link in a previous post. He does an excellent job describing everything. If you can only get one writing book, I feel this should be the one.

And I do have a tip of the week. I’ll try to get it up there tonight.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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