At last! We get to talk about Story!* Together, we get to examine the threads that, when woven together, form some of the most memorable and awe-inspiring stories that we know. I really want this to be an interactive series, so each post will end with a question. I can’t wait to hear from you! This is exciting stuff, folks!
And yet I know what some of you are thinking right now: “I’m not a published writer. This series will not interest or benefit me in the least.” Au contraire, mon ami. You will indeed enjoy this series if you can answer any of the following questions in the affirmative:
Are you even remotely interested in writing?
Do you enjoy reading when you have the time?
Do you love to watch a good movie?
Have you ever gotten hooked on watching a show?
Have you ever felt betrayed when a movie, book, or show turned from interesting to boring, unbelievable, manipulative, or confusing?
Are you still reading this article?
If you answered, “Yes!” to any of those questions, then this is a series that you’ll really enjoy. Just trust me and give it a shot.
So! Down to business. What is this book that I’m going to be discussing, and what’s it about? The book is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey.
“But hey! You told me this wasn’t just for writers!”
Pipe down over there. I’m getting to that part.
Anyway, this book is heavily influenced by an older book by Joseph Campbell called The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell’s book organized and discussed the various components that are common to all great stories throughout history. He created what is called “The Hero’s Journey,” an organization of plot points and motifs that show up in myths, epics, the subconscious, and stories. It was a very important, ground-breaking book. I didn’t like it very much.**
So Vogler read this book by Campbell, was changed by it forever, and then wrote The Writer’s Journey as a modern version of those same concepts. Basically, if you’re only going to read one of those books, make it The Writer’s Journey, especially if you’re not sure you really love literary theory, archetypes, and the monomyth.
Wait! Don’t go! I promise not to say things like “archetype” and “monomyth” in the same sentence again for a long time. Instead, let’s talk about The Hobbit. In this series, I plan to look at the 12 stages of The Hero’s Journey and then apply them to the plot of Tolkien’s delectable little book, The Hobbit. Notice that I had to differentiate from Peter Jackson’s movie version of The Hobbit. They are unrelated except that they both have a Bilbo, a dragon, and a ring. If you haven’t read the book but you’ve seen the movies, that’s ok! You’ll know enough to track along with me. Just plan to be a little surprised now and then by how the real story goes. (Spoiler alert: as hot as that elf chick is, she’s not even in the book.)***
In conclusion, I hope to give you helpful summaries, personal opinions, and relatable examples. And in return, I really do hope you’ll give me feedback. Let me know what you find useful, controversial, irrelevant, or intriguing. Ask me questions! Share your opinion! Pass this on to a friend who might enjoy it too! And don’t forget to answer the question at the end of each post.
So, as a teaser, I’ll leave you with the mere titles of the 12 stages of The Hero’s Journey, and next time we’ll look at the first stage together. I can’t wait!
The 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey
Call to Adventure
Refusal of the Call
Meeting with the Mentor
Crossing the First Threshold
Tests, Allies, and Enemies
Approach to the Inmost Cave
Reward/Seizing the Sword
The Road Back
Return with the Elixir
Let the journey begin!
Your question: Think of one story (book, movie, show, myth, whatever) that you’ve really enjoyed. What is it, and what do you like about it?
Ready for more? Check out Stage One: The Ordinary World now!
If you’re not sick of me yet, you can check out the asterisk footnote section below!
*I’m capitalizing the word Story here to differentiate it from the common noun that could refer to any ol’ story in particular. When I capitalize it, I won’t be talking about a story; I’ll be discussing Story—the concept, the topic, the art itself. Hope that helps. If it doesn’t, then just pretend I’m an older British writer. They seemed to capitalize words on a whim.
**In my very humble and outnumbered opinion, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces may leave you disoriented and bemired in the bogs of psychology. In his defense, the psychological ideas of Freud and Jung were still fairly novel and cutting edge when Campbell published his book in 1945, but I felt that The Hero would have been more helpful to me personally if it had spent less time mucking about in the subconscious. Granted, that’s a big part of what Campbell was trying to prove with his book: that the archetypes in our stories are intrinsic to human nature regardless of time or culture because they are based in our subconscious. There. Now you don’t have to read his book. Instead, just get Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, which takes all of Campbell’s ideas and makes them more accessible and relevant. You may now commence lambasting me for this opinion in the comments section.
***Am I getting carried away with these asterisks? Yes, definitely. But I wanted to make sure you knew how much I LOVED Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies! I think that’s why I was so disappointed when I watched his version of The Hobbit. I forgive you, Peter Jackson, but only because your first trilogy was so splendid.