The Hero’s Journey is a phrase based upon ideas from comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell’s seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Campbell actually refers to his concept as the monomyth, a term he borrowed from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.
Christopher Vogler took this concept to the next level in his book, applying it to contemporary stories. It’s an excellent study.
You’ll see this classic story structure model applied to more films than you can count on your appendages. Why? Because it works. From Jack and the Beanstalk to Star Wars to The Lion King to Beverly Hills Cop, there really is no substitute for classic structure sensibilities in storytelling.
As an exercise, try finding each of the journey’s steps in some of your favorite films. You’ll gain a whole new appreciation on things.
The steps are:
1. Ordinary World – Limited Awareness
2. Call to Adventure – Increased Awareness
3. Refusal of the Call – Reluctance to Change
4. Meeting the Mentor – Overcoming Reluctance
5. Crossing the First Threshold – Committing to Change
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies – Experimenting with First Change
7. Approach the Inmost Cave – Preparing for Big Change
8. Ordeal – Attempting Big Change
9. Reward – Consequence of the Attempt
10. Road Back – Rededication to Change
11. Resurrection – Final Attempt at Big Change
12. Return with the Elixir – Final Mastery of the Problem
*These steps don’t necessarily occur in this order in every story. Variations abound, which is what makes things so interesting.