Whether you look for your inspiration in books, comics, films or video games ou will no doubt have come across a tale that has been spun thanks to the guiding outline of the Hero’s Journey. This narrative structure is a common way to plot out the progression of a main character, not just through events but also in their own internal growth. This template has been used over and over again by the greats including Melville for Moby Dick, Tolkien in Lord Of The Rings, to Lucas in Star Wars. By using the same tools you can plot out a great character arc that hits all the beats readers love and now as a result of its used expect to see within a story. The guide is separated into three parts, over the years these sections have varied in their content moving from 17 items to more condensed versions, but here are some of the main and most familiar stages.
Call to Adventure
This is the beginning of something extraordinary for your protagonist. Whether they are being whisked away to an alien home world or must embark on a dangerous mission through enemy territory, this is the signal our adventure is beginning and the everyday environment is going to be left behind. This stage often comes with others such as the hero initially refusing, or where their mentor will first make an appearance (think Gandalf). This moment is significant as it promises there will be much more excitement to come for the audience and also prepares the main character for a breaching the unknown.
The Road of Trials
Here our hero finds their training whether apparent or not. This stage of the journey is fraught with mistakes, near misses and feelings of inadequacy. Our hero here is forced to face many obstacles that are slowly making them better one lesson at a time. Though things often get tough here we eventually see one of the lessons has stuck and the hero is finally overcoming that which held them back as another ordinary person – Luke learning the force.
This part is like an internalised version of the success of trials. This may come about as a result of the intensity that the trials had on our hero, but however it happens the hero must understand that something in them has changed. Whether they have finally mastered something they thought they could never, whether they have unearthed the power within them passed down through many generations, or simply understand themselves and their own philosophy, this new realisation is powerful and allows them to progress in a new bold direction – Neo in the Matrix.
The Ordeal and Reward
This is essentially the final boss battle. The hero comes face to face with the antagonist whether it be a person, army, or elemental force of evil. This is what they have fought for, and now fuelled by their training and their new discovery of self they have all the ingredients needed to best their opponent. Though it may not be straightforward the hero overcomes their enemy, saving anyone in need or gaining a stolen item and can return to their normal life and their townsfolk as a champion.