Yes, Virginia, There Really is a Monomyth
A long time ago, in a video game school far, far away . . . one of my teachers gave a lecture about story. He talked about the Hero’s Journey and recommended it’s structure for story creation. His presentation impressed quite a few of my friends and though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, I filed the Hero’s Journey to the back of my mind to be studied later.
The Hero’s Journey goes a little something like this:
In the late 1940s, Joseph Campbell, a mythologist and writer, wrote a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This book argued that all ancient myths followed some type of form or pattern. Campbell called it the monomyth or the Hero’s Journey. His work greatly influenced George Lucas when he wrote Star Wars.
Over the years, I have tried to understand Campbell’s work, but I just didn’t get it. He used jargon that I wasn’t familiar with and his descriptions of the patterns seemed vague. Overall, it just seemed too academic and I kept putting it to the side.
Fast forward to my writing ‘career’ in the last year or so. One of the things I have struggled with is plot and story structure, particularly middles and endings. I read a few books on the subject, but nothing seemed to help. I decided to look at the Hero’s Journey again.
This time, things clicked. And it’s because of Christopher Vogler.
Vogler is a writing consultant for the movie industry. He has a solid grasp of the monomyth and he knew its concepts could be used to help writers. However, he found that a lot of people he worked with had the same problem I had—they just didn’t understand Campbell’s work. So, he broke it down for them into everyday lingo. He later wrote a book about it–The Writer’s Journey.
A synopsis of the structure outlined in Vogler’s book is here. It finally helped me understand the concepts of the Hero’s Journey. Soon, I was watching movies and dissecting them based upon Vogler’s structure. There really is a monomyth!
For those of you that would like to have a better understanding of story structure, I highly recommend Vogler’s work. He is NOT pushing for a formula as some people suggest, he is arguing that all good stories have a form that the human consciousness seems to understand and expect. It was a life changing book for me—pure and simple.
WIP Update: I’m neck deep in the Gideon Plan. I have decided to focus on the main character’s story first, using the Hero’s Journey as a guide. I’m writing a lot of ‘bursts’ and expect to be done at the end of the month. At this rate, I should be finished with the novel in oh . . . about five years . . .