The power of myth is often overlooked in this world of smart phones, tablets and Ipods. But, it is the key to making any story you are writing or want to write worth reading.
You see, the American scholar Joseph Campbell revealed something called the Monomyth in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. After years of studying myths from many different cultures he discovered that they all follow the same pattern. This pattern is the pattern of each of our lives, yours and mine from the first man and woman to the very last.
Because of this we, as human beings, respond positively to it without even knowing. We can’t resist it. It is the pattern that makes the Star Wars saga so appealing as well as the love story of Titanic.
Now, you can tell a story without these elements. But, when you include them, it appeals to people in a way they can’t ignore.
So what are they?
OK, here you go.
The Power Of Myth And The 12 Stages Of The Hero (or Heroine’s) Journey
- The Ordinary World: we first meet the hero in the world of everyday life. This could be Tatouine for Luke Skywalker or Kansas for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. This stage portrays the hero as a normal person we can identify with.
- The Call To Adventure: uh oh, in this stage something happens to urge the hero to take action. It could be the death of a loved one or a crime the hero witnesses. In The Count of Monte Cristo Edmund Dantes is unjustly imprisoned which leads to his adventure of escaping prison and seeking revenge.
- The Hero Refuses The Call: let’s face it, no one likes to get up off the couch and neither do heroes (because as we saw in stage 1 they are just like us). In this stage there are all sorts of reasons not to heed the call. In Star Wars Luke’s uncle needed him for the harvest.
- Enter The Mentor: we’ve all had a mentor figure in our lives advising us to step beyond the boundaries of our little worlds. Gandalf is this mentor in The Lord of The Rings and Samwise Gamgee actually states that, with his next step, he will be farther from home than he’s ever been in his life.
- Crossing The First Threshold: this is where the power of myth really gets going. The hero gives in to the pressure and accepts the call to adventure. There was no going home for Luke after his family was killed and his home was burned and Dorothy really can’t overcome the power of a tornado. Both of these characters have crossed the threshold into their new world of adventure.
- The Hero Encounters Tests, Allies And Enemies: in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy must flee the Wicked Witch with the help of The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion to get the Ruby Slippers. In Star Wars, as in Casablanca, allies and enemies can be found in the dangerous world of a bar where people are looking to make deals.
Ever been in any of these situations? Well, this is the power of myth as it applies to reality and the reality of your life. Now let’s keep going
7. The Approach Of The Inmost Cave: in this stage of the journey the hero must cross a threshold that requires him to dig deeper within himself than he has ever done before. This is the place where the person the hero was dies and is reborn to a new and better hero. Gandalf the Grey facing the Balrog and returning to the story as Gandalf the White is a perfect example.
8. The Hero Faces A Terrible Ordeal: this is the make or break point for the hero. He, she, you or I will either succeed or fail in this ordeal. In Star Wars it is when they are trapped in the belly of the beast in the trash compactor, In The Wizard of Oz and The Count of Monte Cristo it is when the heroes are imprisoned. In Casablanca it is when the hero is forced to sacrifice love for duty.
9. The Hero Receives The Reward: this one speaks for itself. Dorothy takes the broomstick of the Wicked Witch and gets to go home, Frodo destroys the ring, saves the world and gets to go home, Edmund Dantes gets the treasure and gets to go home. Isn’t that really what we all want to do anyway?
10: The Road Back: depending on how you structure your story the road could be short or long. After Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star the story wraps up pretty quickly. But, Edmund Dantes is just getting started after he receives his reward. He’s got a lifetime of revenge to wreak in order for him to go home.
11. The Resurrection: at this stage the hero must face a second life and death moment. This is typically where the serial killer comes back to life and the hero must get rid of him once and for all.
12. The Return With The Elixir: in this part of the story the hero returns home to heal the world. In The Lord of the Rings it is when Frodo returns to The Shire to find the negative influences of the world have changed things and he uses the magical soil of the elves to help heal things.
This is the power of myth in people’s lives and if this is the kind of information you’re looking for there’s plenty more where that came from. If you would like more information on how to write a novel, publish it and market it online, click here.