Famous novels share much more in common than the previous 12 traits. As Christopher Vogler reveals in his book The Writer’s Journey there are 12 stages that the character must go through so that the story speaks to the reader on an almost cellular level.
The 12 Mythic Elements Of Famous Novels That Resonate With Readers
These 12 stages are based on the work of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
- The hero is portrayed as a typical human being in his typical surroundings.
- The hero then receives a “call to adventure”, an issue he or she must confront and act upon.
- The hero, being a typical human being as stated above, then refuses to heed the call. Wouldn’t we all just rather sit on the couch?
- When the student is ready the teacher will come and so, the next stage is for a mentor to appear and motivate the hero to get off the couch.
- A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and so, the next stage of the story is to cross that first threshold and embark upon the journey.
- The hero faces a series of tests and faces a number of villains. But, along the way, a la Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the hero meets a number of beneficial friends.
- Having embarked on his outward journey the hero now faces an inward test of strength and courage referred to as the approach of the inmost cave. This is best typified by Luke Skywalker entering the cave in Revenge of the Jedi to confront his demons.
- The ordeal is the next stage in which the hero metaphorically dies to his old self and returns as a newer and better version. Think Gandalf the Grey coming back as Gandalf the White.
- As the hero nears the end of his journey it is time for a reward. They deserve something for their trouble. This is the point in the story where The Wizard of Oz reaches into his bag.
- Just as on every journey, you must go home again. The road back is often fraught with dangers as well. But the hero is a new improved version of himself and we get to see how he handles things now.
- For the reader to feel the story is complete there must be a final experience of death and rebirth. This is the point where the audience catches their breath as the dying serial killer attempts to kill the hero one last time.
- The last element that these novels share is the return with the elixir. The elixir in the story of Nelson Mandela’s 27 year quest for freedom in prison is the end of apartheid.
So there you have it, 12 elements of famous novels as revealed by two different books on writing. Which should you use, you ask? My recommendation would be to use all of them…and more.
You see there are other elements that books like these share like a certain cast of characters such as the mentor, the herald, the threshold guardian and others. You can learn more about these in Vogler’s book and my course on Creating Characters That People Pay Money To Read.