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Greg Smith & The Hero's Journey


Start time: Tuesday September 18, 2018 at 04:00 PM Pacific Time
(07:00 PM Eastern Time, NY USA)

End time: Tuesday September 18, 2018 at 05:00 PM Pacific Time
(08:00 PM Eastern Time, NY USA)

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I'll spend an hour chatting about the "hero" of your story...

The Agile Novel is a Hero’s Journey inspired by the works of Joseph Campbell. The story is hero-centered. When we say “hero” we simply mean the central character of the story. This is sometimes called the protagonist. This is not to be confused with the common use of the word “hero” which means someone who acts in a heroic, selfless fashion (like first responders or our military men or women). The “hero” may be male or female, we still call them the “hero.”

Joseph Campbell was a comparative mythologist. He studied the legends and myths from many cultures, both present-day and back through antiquity. He found that stories from all cultures follow the same pattern. He called this pattern “The Hero’s Journey.” These stories teach lessons like how to act within the culture and how to resolve differences. The history and values of a culture are passed on by telling these heroic stories.

In the Hero’s Journey, the hero starts in their Ordinary World. They’re doing pretty well in the Ordinary World when “Something Happens.” This is usually an event that is of such magnitude that they are then cast into a Special World where they are on a quest or journey. There, the hero meets friends, allies, and enemies. The hero must overcome some great obstacle to gain their reward. Once the hero resolves their quest, they return to their Ordinary World having learned from their experiences. They are then the master of both worlds.

While this pattern appears to work only for quest-type stories (fantasy and science fiction, for example) it works for general fiction as well.

It is important to realize that stories are not reality. Campbell would say that stories are metaphors for our daily lives. Stories have an arc with clearly defined high and low points, whereas reality proceeds chronologically at a steady pace. Reality is a fairly stable “non-arc” and can be pretty boring. This is why we look to patterns like the Hero’s Journey to shape the Agile Novel.

We want to define an arc for the Hero’s Journey. Campbell teaches us that the hero is all about self-sacrifice (but rarely about martyrdom). The hero starts out self-absorbed. There is a separation from family, friends, and society. The hero is then on a journey for identity and to return to those they are separated from. During this journey, the hero encounters many characters. Often, these characters reveal the hero’s Missing Inner Quality (more on that in Chapter 5) The hero must find a way to integrate these characters into himself.

Take, for example, J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings[13]. It begins with Frodo who is a happy Hobbit. He enjoys life in the Shire, tending to his uncle Bilbo’s garden. Gandalf the wizard appears and challenges Frodo to return Bilbo’s ring to its origin and destroy it. Frodo resists but ultimately goes on the journey accompanied by a few of his Hobbit friends. Later, he meets Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Boromir. Together they engage on a quest to return the ring to Cracks of Doom and destroy it.

In this story, Frodo starts out in his Ordinary World (the shire). Then “something happens” (Gandalf lays down a challenge). Frodo is separated from friends and family as he embarks on the quest. He meets new friends who each have a quality that Frodo will need to acquire to accomplish his mission.

We also see this in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy encounters the Scarecrow who lacks brains, the Tin Man who lacks heart, and the Cowardly

Lion who lacks courage. These are all things that Dorothy doesn’t seem to have. In helping her new friends find their missing qualities, she incorporates them into herself.

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