The Hero’s Journey – Plot Theory

Hello and welcome back to the blog, lovelies. Today we’re going to talk about one of the most oft-repeated plot structures out there, which is The Hero’s Journey. Also called the Monomyth, this plot method was developed by Joseph Campbell in which a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

There are several interchangeable terms one associates with the Hero’s Journey, and I will attempt to include and explain them, but in general, you can think of the Monomyth as as a (usually) circular diagram.


Let’s go through the twelve (or seventeen) stages of the Hero’s Journey so that you can begin to see how they are used. To clarify, not all Hero’s Journey users write the full seventeen stages, and stories can often be pared down to the twelve as shown above.

  1. Call to Adventure. Here we see the hero in his or her natural state. This is the world they are already living in, a world which is normal or ordinary to them. Then a situation happens that forces them off into the unknown.
  2. Refusal of the Call. No one likes being told what to do, or having to make big changes. When the call to act is first received, the future hero will often react badly, refusing what the call is trying to get them to do.
  3. Meeting the Mentor. Eventually, the future hero will end up on the path they were called to, whether they consciously chose it, or got there circumstantially. Once they have, a mentor will appear to them that will help them in different ways throughout their journey.
  4. Crossing the First Threshold. This is the precise moment when the future hero crosses out of the realm of what they know and are comfortable with, into the unknown.
  5. Belly of the Whale. The moment the hero stops trying to fight it and decides to make the change they need to make, we see them in the belly of the whale scene. Sometimes there is also a minor setback during this moment that is caused because of the decision, or the decision is caused by the setback.
  6. Road of Trials. There are a number of things that a character is put through due to the decision. This is called the road of trials, which can be internal or external pressures. These the hero must overcome in order to progress.
  7. Meeting with the Goddess. The hero then meets someone who gives them some of the items or tools they will eventually need to finish their quest.
  8. Woman as Temptress. The hero will meet with temptation that they will have to choose for or against. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a female, or even sexually related. A hero might see a painting of their homeland and be painfully reminded how much they miss where they came from.
  9. Atonement with the Father/Abyss.  When the hero confronts their own internal demons and makes peace with them, we see the atonement of the abyss. Whether confronting their sins, limiting beliefs, or otherwise, in this powerful moment, the hero attains equilibrium.
  10. Apotheosis. We reach a moment when the hero gains a greater understanding of how their goal might be achieved. This could mean discovering a hidden path into a city, or a vital clue to solving the crime. The hero finally starts to see the truth of what must be done in order to attain their goal.
  11. The Ultimate Boon. Attaining the ultimate boon is the entire point of the quest come to fruition. The previous steps have purified the hero for this moment.
  12. Refusal of the Return. Once their quest has been completed, the hero may not want to go back to the ordinary place they were before. It also sometimes happens that the place they were cannot be returned to.
  13. The Magic Flight. Escaping with the boon, the hero’s return journey can sometimes be as dangerous as the journey there. Or sometimes you’re packing loads of treasures on a pony for half the book and return home without incident.
  14. Rescuers from Without. Sometimes as arduous as it was to get to the world they are currently in, it is equally as arduous to get home. Often, the hero will need additional help getting back to the ordinary world.
  15. Crossing the Return Threshold. A final test of the hero’s journey means they must now come to terms with the ordinary and mediocre world again after they’ve seen the glories of the other world. The trick is to retain the knowledge they have gained in the other world.
  16. Master of Two Worlds. The hero then becomes competent in both the ordinary and other worlds. The internal and external are in harmony. They are at peace with the material and spiritual aspects of the world.
  17. Freedom to Live. Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live.[citation needed] This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

Think you’ve got it? What novels do you know of that follow the Hero’s Journey? Let me know in the comments below!

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