The Hero’s Journey

Welcome to the new year … yeah, I’m a bit late. However, behind the scenes I’ve been working away and I’m sure you have too. Who cares about new year’s resolutions when they’re ultimately the same goals you had last year? Robots don’t do new resolutions. They update old resolutions: Write hard. Work hard. Live hard. So, to make this short here is a very specific list of things I’ve set out to do this year:

add a mailing list option to this blog – working on it already

get an editor for the story currently known as The Living Blade – I’m already negotiating

finally, publish at least the first installment of The Living Blade this year.

So now, the blog post:

Plotting versus pantsing, plus a rough guide by TED Ed

In the last post, I shared my own personal world view and also mentioned how I used that to build a structure for my emerging story through asking questions. Usually at that point I have certain ideas for scenes, snatches of dialogue and glimpses of the who the characters are on the inside already. So there are two modi operandi from that point. I could just sit down and “pants” the story, flying by the seat of my pants on the snippets of detail I have. When you pants it, you sit down and start with page one and just go from there. Lots of people do this, I’m told.

Supposedly it’s great because you as the writer are as surprised by what’s coming as any later reader may be. The problem creeps up, though, that after writing 200 pages of stuff, you basically have a set of characters who stand around talking but don’t actually do anything and nothing really happens to them. This is a problem lots of people have, too. Whenever I say I write stories, people usually say something along the lines of ‘oh, I’ve done that too. I’ve written some really cool scenes with witty dialogue. You should read it. It’s really good.’ When I ask what the story is, what happens, they don’t answer as coherently. And that’s a shame because if you’re going to write, and you have witty dialogue, wouldn’t it be great if something actually happened to your characters for them to talk about?

Enter plotting. Being a robot person, I love lists and planning. Pre-production excites me. So, I need a plot structure to work with.

Enter the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is a kind of a template based on the mother of all story research Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with the Thousand Faces. But really, there are so many out there, so many different ones to choose from. I recently stumbled on a number of basic worksheets for writing on Jami Gold’s most excellent writer’s site.

Whatever you use, an outline like this really helps see what pieces I have to push them into their respective slots, but more importantly to see what parts are missing and have to be thought up. This is what I work with and what works for me given my ISTJ personality type, but everyone’s journey is their own.

Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey (the book) says: “Every storyteller bends the mythic pattern to his or her own purpose or the needs of a particular culture. That’s why the hero has a thousand faces.” See?

So here’s a formula for you to work with. You may bend, flip, exchange, leave out, or simply break whatever you want. (Also I love Ted Ed.)


Now, your story may be an inward journey of your characters personality change. Or your story may be an outward journey an adventure, full of physical action in a challenging outside world. Personally I love to read a mix of both internal and external progression in the same story, so I developed my ideas to have both. But really, it’s all up for grabs.

Now, what’s your story?

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