The Hero’s Journey is a type of storytelling identified by Joseph Campbell and, for screenwriting purposes, modified by Christopher Vogler, that identifies particular stages a hero must go through, as well as several character archetypes that the hero is likely to encounter.
The stages will generally appear in order but not always, as is the case with Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, the example we are using.
- The Ordinary World
- The Call to Adventure
- Refusal of the Call
- Meeting with the Mentor
- Crossing the Threshold
- Test, Allies, and Enemies
- The Ordeal
- The Reward
- The Road Back
- The Resurrection
- Return With the Elixir
This stage introduces to the character, where they come from, and what their current situation is. In Star Wars, the Ordinary World would be Luke Skywalker’s life with his aunt and uncle on Tattooine.
Something changes that disrupts the character’s current life. In Luke Skywalker’s case, it is the arrival of R2D2 and C3PO, carrying the iconic message from Leia, “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” He meets Obi Wan, who encourages him to become a Jedi.
When the character is approached with the call, they usually turn it down (until something forces them to do so). Luke doesn’t want to become a Jedi. After his aunt and uncle are killed, and Luke has nothing left, he decides to embark upon the journey.
A mentor is someone who gives the hero guidance. They are experienced and have something to teach the hero; often, mentors will give the hero a talisman of sorts. In Star Wars, Obi Wan is the mentor that Luke meets, and he gives him a lightsaber.
This is when there is no going back. It is the point of no return. When Luke decides to leave with Obi Wan and travel to the space port Mos Eisley (home of the famous Cantina), his journey has begun.
It is not always clear, at first, who your allies are and who are your enemies. Sometimes, they can appear to be one and turn out to be the other. Luke is tested by having to escape Tatooine, as well as train to be a Jedi. Can he do it? He meets two of his allies during his escape – Han Solo and Chewbacca. Although Han says he doesn’t want to get involved and that he is just in it for the money, we later learn this is not true; he is a good guy in disguise.
There is a major challenge to be faced. In Luke’s case, the approach refers to their travel to the Death Star.
This occurs near the middle of the story. In Star Wars, Luke has to battle Storm Troopers and, eventually, Darth Vader himself. During this time, Luke’s mentor, Obi Wan, is struck down by Vader.
The hero obtains a reward after facing death. Luke and crew save Leia and return to the Rebellion with vital information for destroying the Death Star.
This stage occurs about three quarters of the way through the story and is when the hero is compelled to complete the journey and bring the treasure home. There is usually something urgent that spurs the hero on, such as a battle or chase sequence. In Star Wars, the rebellion is attacked, and they must go destroy the Death Star.
Resurrection usually occurs during the climax of the movie. It’s when the hero faces his final test and, hopefully, wins. Luke listens to the spirit of Obi Wan and relies on his instincts to destroy the Death Star.
The hero returns, transformed. He often has something physical or intangible that he’s brought with him. His life will never be the same. Luke returns a hero, and he is rewarded by Leia. He is now deeply entrenched in the Rebellion’s cause.
Archetypes (definition: a typical example of a person or thing)
Taken directly from http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm
- THRESHOLD GUARDIANS
Central figures in stories. Everyone is the hero of his or her own myth.
Villains and enemies, perhaps the enemy within. The dark side of the Force, the repressed possibilities of the hero, his or her potential for evil. Can be other kinds of repression, such as repressed grief, anger, frustration or creativity that is dangerous if it doesn’t have an outlet.
The hero’s guide or guiding principles. Yoda, Merlin, a great coach or teacher.
One who brings the Call to Adventure. Could be a person or an event.
The forces that stand in the way at important turning points, including jealous enemies, professional gatekeepers, or your own fears and doubts.
In stories, creatures like vampires or werewolves who change shape. In life, the shapeshifter represents change. The way other people (or our perceptions of them) keep changing. The opposite sex, the way people can be two-faced.
Clowns and mischief-makers, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. Our own mischievous subconscious, urging us to change.
Characters who help the hero through the change. Sidekicks, buddies, girlfriends who advise the hero through the transitions of life.