The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why the Hero's Journey?

Why the Hero's Journey?

In the Lifewriting Year Long course, I dive deeply into the concept of story structure, offering several different models of this thing called "story" while making it clear that none of these models are "the thing itself" but rather approaches, perspectives, tools to manage the different thematic and incidental aspects of their work.

I like the Hero's Journey for a variety of reasons:

1) It is universal. You cannot find a story recognized as "story" by any significant number of people (in other words, any television episode ever shown, any movie ever generally released, any novel that achieved even moderate success or longevity, any story that has lasted more than a generation) that cannot be explored through the HJ.

2) It not only diagrams story itself, it diagrams the PROCESS of writing a story.

3) Not only does it diagram a story, but it also diagrams the process of life. Every life. Everything you've ever attempted to accomplish in your entire life.

Therefore, if you will chose subjects for your writing that actually affect your own life and express your own values, EVERYTHING YOU LEARN MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER, AND EVERYTHING YOU WRITE MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON. And that's pretty cool.

In philosophical terms, there are basically two questions in life worth asking: "Who am I?" and "What is true?" In writing terms, these two questions manifest as "what is the world?" and "what are the human beings who experience it?" A spiritual version: "what is Man that Thou art mindful of him?" And it goes on and on.

Human beings. The world. You. Your perspective. The more you see the connection, the more you seek to explore your sense of human psychology, philosophy, science, politics, interpersonal dynamics and so forth...

The more you seek to find a spark of truth in every work, seek to trigger the "ah! Life is just like that!" response that automatically raises your work above the level of "pulp" and gives you the opportunity to create art...

In other words, the less you try to be "clever" and the more you simply attempt to find truth...

The better your writing will be. There are certainly other story patterns, but I know of none with this specific strength. You may well choose to go another way.

1) Do you think you can name a non-experimental film that doesn't follow this pattern (there are "art house" films that specifically seek to subvert this pattern. But by being in reaction to standard story, they remain bound by it)

2) If you don't like some version of the HJ--what pattern DO you utilize?

3) If you avoid pattern altogether, how DO you organize your work?

Important questions. Answers, anyone?


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