June 5, 2020

What Are the Fundamentals of the Hero's Journey?

The hero's journey is complex, so what are the fundamentals you can use in your own writing? 

If you've hung around enough writing chat rooms, aisles inside Barnes and Noble, or on Twitter, you know that at some point during the day, someone is going to talk about the hero's journey. That someone is Joseph Campbell. Just kidding. 

It's become this ubiquitous guide that people use to talk about what needs to happen to make their character arc in the story. 

We've seen it in Star Wars and Marvel and Batman...but have we really seen it ourselves? 

It feels like everyone talks about this thing, but sometimes seeing people do the hero's journey and actually doing it yourself looks very different.

Today, I want to go over the fundamental beats of the hero's journey and talk about how you can make sure you hit those notes in your script while giving yourself room to be inventive. 

Check out this video from Campfire Technology and let's talk after the jump. 

Hero's Journey Breakdown: Key Elements All Screenwriters Should Know

I'll be honest, there are days when I get sick of hearing about the hero's journey. It can feel limiting and drives me up a wall. But there are other days when I'm stuck in Act II, and I desperately want it to come back to the formula so I can write my way out. 

So what does the hero's journey represent? 

Basically, it takes the ordinary world of a character and turns it on their head. It takes us through some story beats that help the character change. 

Joseph Campbell's Hero's JourneyCredit: The Writer's Journey

So what are the fundamentals? 

If you picked up A Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbellyou know that this is less a rule book and more a list of tropes that people expect to see or be subverted.

People want something familiar...but with a twist

So when we look at the fundamentals, it's more like us riffing on an outline or Save The Cat to make sure the story we intend to tell winds up on the page. 

The most important elements are showing the ordinary world, then changing it, and then taking your character on a journey that births them into a new world that will never look the same.

You really want to concentrate on how the character at the center changes. What can you throw in their face that forces them to confront their biggest problems and biggest fears? 

All this guide is meant to do is get you to put your characters through the wringer.  

What are your favorite part of the hero's journey? 

Let us know in the comments. 

What's next? Get our free screenwriting eBook

So much of what we're talking about on No Film School when it comes to screenwriting is summarized in our new eBook. It also helps guide you through a 10-week writing plan that will get your script actually finished.     

Your Comment

3 Comments

We need more formulaic movies that follow the hero's journey template because anything that doesn't follow it, doesn't work and doesn't make any money.

So we should all keep writing stuff based on formulas and templates, like the comic book films have done so well.

June 5, 2020 at 12:33PM

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I take it you are a highly sarcastic person.

June 6, 2020 at 11:24AM

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Leo E.
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love it

June 5, 2020 at 8:09PM

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