Monday, August 27, 2012

Myth Structure

I look for myth structure when I’m editing; every protagonist goes through some portion of the hero’s journey and tension builds when he stalls on a step, tries to skip a step, or runs away from the journey.

Perhaps your reader has never heard of Hero of a Thousand Faces or saw Bill Moyers’ interviews with Joseph Campbell, but he instinctively knows what the steps of the hero’s journey are – in the same way he knows how a story should “go”. I remember a six-year-old telling me that in his story first the boy finds a magic rock and then he loses it and the he finds it again.

Following are the steps in the hero’s journey. Imagine your favorite book or movie, or the manuscript you're working on right now – can you identify the steps in the plot?


The Call to Adventure
Refusal of the Call
Supernatural Aid (the Helper appears)
The Crossing of the First Threshold (into adventure)
The Belly of the Whale (hero separates from known world and self)


The Road of Trials (tests, often in threes)
The Meeting with the “Goddess” (the union of opposites)
Woman as the Temptress (hero is tempted)
Atonement with the Father (“father” as ultimate power)
Apotheosis (deification, hero rests)
The Ultimate Boon (the goal of the quest)


Refusal of the Return (to everyday life)
The Magic Flight (escape)
Rescue from Without
The Crossing of the Return Threshold (returning with wisdom)
Master of the Two Worlds (maybe just the material and spiritual worlds)
Freedom to Live

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