Hero S Journey Essay Prompts

The Hero’s Journey is a pattern discovered in mythological stories by the American Scholar, Joseph Campbell. Campbell maintained that all mythological stories (and all good stories) share a common structure or flow. This revolves around the inner and outer journey of the protagonist, whom he calls the hero.

The steps don’t always flow in perfect order. Sometimes two or more steps are combined. But here is the basic structure, using Star Wars as an example (Lucas borrowed heavily from Campbell for A New Hope):

The Ordinary World
We get to know the day to day life of the hero.
Luke is a farm boy living with his Aunt and Uncle.

The Call To Adventure
Something happens to upset the normal life of the hero, which often includes an invitation or pressure to leave their normal life behind.
Luke buys a droid that plays a holographic distress call from Princess Leia and a plea for rescue. 

Refusal Of The Call
The hero resists, or tries to resist the inevitable.
Luke clings to his commitment to his uncle and the farm. 

Meeting With The Mentor
A wise person helps put things into perspective, encouraging the hero to accept the call to adventure.
Enter Ben Kenobi. 

Crossing The Threshold
The hero accepts the call to adventure, which propels them past the point of no return.
The Lars Homestead is burned the ground and Luke leaves with Ben Kenobi. 

Tests, Allies, And Enemies
The hero’s resolve is tested and they meet friends and foes along the way.
Luke and Ben are hunted by Stormtroopers and meet Han and Chewie. 

The Approach
The hero is trained or prepared for the mission they have accepted.
Luke is trained in the ways of the force by Ben Kenobi and receives his first light sabre.

The Ordeal (The Cave)
The hero is tested and often comes to their lowest point in the story.
Luke and his friends are taken captive in the Death Star and nearly die in the trash compactor. 

The Reward
The hero begins to rise with a victory in the bag.
Luke and friends escape the Death Star with Princess Leia and just as critical, information about how to destroy the Death Star.

The Road Back
The hero is forced to finish what they started by renewed opposition from the enemy.
Darth Vader and the Death Star zero in on the Rebel Base, forcing the Rebels to launch an all-out assault on the Death Star.

The Resurrection
The hero is tested again and nearly dies, but in such a way that they rise stronger than ever.
Luke hears Ben Kenobi’s voice, uses the force, and delivers the death blow to the Death Star.

Return With The Elixir
The hero returns home but life will never be the same.
Luke is a hero but his training has just begun.

I highly recommend The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (click here for the book review at the How to Write Shop). Vogler breaks story into a “mythic journey” based on the study of storyteller Joseph Campbell. The theory is that all stories have an underlying mythic structure (known as The Hero’s Journey) and Vogler explains the following steps at length in his book. Put your story up against this structure to dig into your story’s subliminal structure.

Better yet, use this structure as a writing tool and brainstorm the big moments of your story. Do these writing exercises before or during your novel writing process to jump-start ideas. Several of the steps (6 through 9) can be repeated as often as needed. You can brainstorm each step many times and choose what is best, or let information and ideas come that you can utilize in another place in your story.

1. The Ordinary World:  Introduction to the hero. Life is normal, but something happens that signifies things are about to change. (The Ordinary World can be physical, but also a state of mind.)

What do you want the reader’s first impression to be about your protagonist?
What can happen to show this?
How does the reader first meet your protagonist?
What, where and when is your lead’s Ordinary World?
What is good about it? Why is he or she comfortable here?
What will the lead miss most when he or she leaves?
What happens that feels a little off?
Does your character notice this? How does he or she react?

2. The Call to Adventure: Something shakes up the Ordinary World, either external or something from within the hero. Your hero is forced to face the beginnings of change. Otherwise known as the inciting incident.

What happens that changes everything?
How does the hero feel about this?
How does he or she react?
What action does the lead take in response to what happened?
What is now the lead’s goal?

3. Refusal of the Call: The hero feels fear of the unknown. Another character may express uncertainty. The antagonist might enter here to keep the protagonist from entering the fray.

What internal dilemma does your protagonist face in response to his goal?
What does the antagonist do to make things worse for your protagonist?
How does the protagonist react to this?
Why? What is his or her fear?
What will the hero lose (what is at stake?) if he or she doesn’t follow through?

4. Meeting with the Mentor:  The protagonist finds someone who gives him training or advice that will help him face the unknown. (Another character can take on the mentor role briefly during the story.) Or internally, the hero reaches within to find a source of courage and wisdom.

Who in this new world can help the protagonist?
How does the protagonist find him or her?
Does the protagonist trust this character?
What is the conflict between the mentor and the protagonist?
Does this mentor accompany the lead, or send him or her on?

5. Crossing the Threshold:  The hero commits to the story and the challenge.

What step does the lead take that he or she can’t take back?
Why does he or she choose this? What does this step mean to him or her?
What does his or her decision mean to the story? To others in the story?
What does the antagonist do in response?

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies:  The hero encounters challenges and tests, is fully committed and has no choice but to move forward and keep fighting.

Does your protagonist succeed? How?
How does the antagonist react to this?
Does your protagonist fail? How?
How does the antagonist react to this?
How is the situation made worse?
What character revelation takes place for both?
What risks does the protagonist take?
Who does the lead meet to help him or her in the journey? How do they help?
How does the antagonist react to this?
Who does the lead meet who blocks him or her in the journey? What trouble do they cause?
How does the antagonist react to this?

(Repeat the above, complete and in pieces, as often as needed.)

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave:  The hero is on the edge of danger and prepares for the major challenge. (Keep up the conflict!)

What does the lead need to face?
What decisions does he or she have to make?
What action does he or she take?
What does the antagonist do in response to this?
What is at risk for the protagonist?

(Repeat the above as often as needed.)

8. Ordeal:  The hero confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life. (Death: Physical, psychological, or professional.)

What is impossible for the hero?
How does he or she confront it?
What risks does the protagonist take?
What happens as a result?
What is revealed about his or her character?
How does the antagonist respond to this?

(Repeat the above as often as needed.)

9.  Reward (Seizing the Sword):  The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. But it’s not over yet. Things might look brighter but they will get worse.

What is settled?
What has the protagonist learned? How does it change him or her?
What decision does he or she now make?
What action does he or she take?
What is revealed about his or her character?
How does the antagonist respond to this?

(Repeat the above as often as needed.)

10.  The Road Back:  The hero is driven to complete the adventure and loses what is most important. Death does happen here…psychological, physical, or professional.

What risk did the lead take in the story that comes back with consequences?
What is the worst thing that can happen?
How does it happen?
When the lead realizes all is lost? What happens?
What image/scene will the reader to experience (complete with all the pain)?
How does the antagonist respond to this?

11.  Resurrection:  The hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. Protagonist is changed forever and commits to a new plan. The meaning of the journey is clear.

What decision does the protagonist make when he or she realizes the reality of the situation?
What action does the protagonist now take?
How does the antagonist respond to this?

12. Return with the Elixir:  The hero returns home, transformed. Satisfying, surprising-but-inevitable ending.

What has the hero accomplished? How is he or she transformed?
What is the final scene in the story?
What is surprising?
What is inevitable?
What do I want the reader to remember?


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://howtowriteshop.loridevoti.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/KathyColum.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere.[/author_info] [/author]
Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Hero S Journey Essay Prompts”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *