This post is part of a series exploring the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell studied hundreds of world-wide myths, finding patterns to virtually any story. This basic framework gives the stories we tell a universal, timeless appeal and resonate deeply with our audiences. This series is not about a “five steps to perfect stories” method, nor does it claim a best way to tell stories. Today, we continue with plot.
The Journey Ends
In the last installment of this series, I talked about the plot or journey of the Hero’s Journey broken into five steps:
- The Hero and the Ordinary World, Broken
- The Hero and the Quest
- The Hero and the Passion
- The Hero and the Moment
- The Hero and the Repercussions
We talked about the first three. Now, we turn to the climax of our story and discuss some final notes about plot.
The Hero and the Moment
It all comes down to this. This is the climax. This is the Moment the Hero faces her worst fear, the most powerful adversary, the greatest challenge. This is almost always faced alone. This almost always connects to the unconscious desire more than the conscious want. This moment is made even more powerful by the Passion, because that is what drives her here. This should also be the moment of change in the Hero”™s character arc. Lastly, many of the most powerful stories involve a resurrection of some kind. We will discuss this in detail in a later installment.
The Hero and the Repercussions
Believe it or not, the character does not have to get the want ““ but they do have to get the need (with a handful of not-so-commercially-successful exceptions). Whether it is a happy, sad, or bitter-sweet ending, the Hero is no longer the same. They have changed because of the Quest, the Passion and the Moment. They have come to grips with their unconscious need, even if it still haunts them in some way. And, this is important, they have made their way into another ordinary world. This will not be the same ordinary world they began in (though it may be similar). It will, however, be ordinary to the Hero. Things are settled now. Don”™t underestimate the use of haunting demons, and you can definitely set up a painful (new-)ordinary world, but the Hero is equipped to handle it.
The Hero and Audience Bonding
With this being a Hero-driven way of thinking. The Hero is obviously important. What about ensemble pieces? Yes, you can have more than one Hero, so long as they each have their own Journey, Want and Need. What is equally important is that the audience root for, feel empathetic towards, and bond with the hero. This does not mean they have to be sympathetic or likable, just real enough that the audience can identify with them and say (even if only to themselves), “I get that. That could be me under the right circumstances.”
In Summary, What”™s next down the road?
That is the basic structure of the Hero”™s Journey. In future installments, we will dig into each section and discuss the important archetypes (characters) that are along the way.