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April 14, 2016

Why Is The Hero’s Journey The Key To Bestselling Fiction?

The hero’s journey is something that was first revealed to the world by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

In this book he revealed that all the myths of the world share some common elements; a pattern that he referred to as the Monomyth. You see, in all of the great stories of antiquity, the story follows a number of stages that came to be referred to as the hero’s journey.

So What Is This Hero’s Journey?

In his book The Writer’s Journey Christopher Vogler breaks down and elaborates the stages and other elements of the journey.

Stage 1: The Ordinary Worldworld-549425_1920 We see the hero in his typical surroundings.


Stage 2: The Call to Adventure Something happens to cause the hero to act.


Stage 3: The Refusal of the Call The hero hesitates.


Stage 4: The Meeting with the Mentor The hero meets a mentor who councils the hero.


Stage 5: Crossing the First Threshold The adventure begins!


Stage 6: Tests, Allies and Enemies The hero meets allies who help him, enemies who oppose him and tests he must pass.


Stage 7: The Approach to the Inmost Cave The hero must dig deep, face his fears and find his courage.


Stage 8: The Ordealmoon-landing-60582_1920 The hero faces the greatest challenge of all, death.


Stage 9: The Reward (Seizing the Sword) The hero gets what he came for.


Stage 10: The Road Back The game is over, time to go home.


Stage 11: The Resurrection The hero becomes more than he once was.


 Stage 12 The Return with the Elixir

The hero returns to his ordinary world a changed man or woman and the experience he brings is a benefit to thosspace-shuttle-879561_1280e who have not made the journey.

So Why Is This Journey So Important?

There are a lot of variables that shape each of the stages of the journey and there is a lot of flexibility for the writer to shape a story around those stages. But, essentially, the journey of the hero is the journey that each and every one of us faces from the day we are born to the day we die.

It is the story of our lives.

So it speaks to us on a subconscious level.

But, here’s something even more important.

In his book, Stealing Fire From The Gods, James Bonnet reveals that all the old myths and great stories of history share some other important qualities that are missing in the stories of today.

You see these myths of antiquity served as metaphors for psychological processes that we undergo throughout our lives to become mature human beings. Stories, or The Great Stories as Bonnet calls them, are devices that human beings use to understand the world and to live richer and more full lives.

This is why, when writer’s incorporate the hero’s journey and the other elements of the great stories of old, their stories are more likely to become bestsellers and classics.

As an example, the Star Wars saga follows the path of the hero’s journey, just as does The Wizard of Oz and Titanic. The reason these stories were so successful is because they incorporated these mythic elements and spoke to readers like they were giving us water in the desert.

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  1. shaun wright July 5, 2016 3:05 am

    Those 12 steps could be the basis for any author’s story and if we all use them, what makes one story a best selling novel over another? Would it be the original idea, the character or the way the author created that character’s journey?

    • Jim November 4, 2016 11:01 pm

      Hi Shaun. Thanks for commenting. There could be any number of variables in what would make one book sell more than another. For example, one book might be a Western that appeals to men and one book might be a Romance that appeals to women. The romance might sell more because women read novels (especially Romances) more than men do. Another variable could be the marketing strategy that one book uses as opposed to another. Then there’s always the quality of the writing to consider. These 12 steps are building blocks but if you put them together poorly you might still have a dud on your hands. For my own purposes I would boil it down to whether or not and how deeply and convincingly the book show us what it means to be human and what life is all about.

      Great questions though. Thanks for stopping by and don’t be a stranger!


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