For a lot of people, plotting comes naturally. They have an idea that just naturally fits into a workable structure. Others have had to learn what that structure looks like and how it works. I definitely fall into the second camp. Before I got serious about writing, my works were a mess of tangled threads, no character arcs, and little tension. So when I first stumbled on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, it was like a road map.
The Hero’s Journey
For those of you who might not be familiar with the work – basically it’s a framework that seems to be common to myths and stories from throughout the world. Different cultures and groups tell myths that all are all built from the same sort of “elements.” These building blocks, he theorizes, are part of a collective unconscious – subconsciously, everyone in the world has the same definition of hero, villain, or quest.
So when a story is written using the Hero’s Journey framework, it tends to satisfy readers and touch them in ways other stories might not, because they’re subconsciously recognized and accepted. Some of the biggest block busters have been written using this formula – Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Matrix are just a few.
Where to Start?
So, when it came to writing my own book, I figured I couldn’t really go too wrong following this formula. But where do you start? Well, luckily, I stumbled across this website that breaks down the hero’s journey using Star Wars and the Matrix (as well as the actual steps of the journey). I simply copied this into a spreadsheet, added a column for my own story, and started plugging things in. It seemed to work pretty well, especially starting out.
But I felt like something was still missing. And then I found the 3 Act Structure.
Tomorrow: How the two fit together
photo credit: Randy son of Robert’s