Wait, are you staring at the screen quizzically and wondering what the darn tootin’ I’m talking about? Let me clarify. The hero’s journey is the evolution of your protagonist. It is the path he/she travels and the lessons he/she learns from your book’s beginning to its climax.
It is effectively the force that propels your content forward. So, how do you write a good one?
Here are my 4 Top Tips for Writing the Hero’s Journey:
This applies to fiction of any kind. There has got to be conflict. Inner, outer and world. If your character has conflict then he has a reason to grow and evolve. He has a reason to take his journey in the first place.
In my urban fantasy novel, The Harbinger, the hero, Sirus, woke up in hospital with amnesia and has had anger burning in his brain ever since. He wants to find his past and get rid of that anger. This is his inner conflict.
Sirus is also in love with a stripper, Vixen, who is a g-string away from leaving him because of that rage. This is his outer conflict.
What Sirus doesn’t know, is that the Demoniacs (demons) and Infinites (Gods) are about to wage a war on Earth. The Infinites need him to save Earth, but he can only do that by controlling his anger. This is the world conflict.
So, inner is what your character is going through internally. Outer is his troubled relationship with other characters. World is what’s about to pop off around him.
All these conflicts make your hero who he is. But this still doesn’t force him on his journey.
Stakes are what your protag stands to lose if he doesn’t resolve conflict. Let’s take a look at the stakes for our example above.
Inner stakes: If Sirus doesn’t find his past, he won’t be able to clarify his self-concept. This will likely lead to a deep depression and possibly suicide.
Outer stakes: If Sirus doesn’t control his anger, Vixen will leave him and he will lose the only woman he loves.
World stakes: If Sirus doesn’t help the Infinites and control his anger, Earth will be overrun by demons.
Have you got your stakes and conflicts established? Great! Now you need to work your character forward. Prod him into a series of events that will FORCE him to evolve.
For instance, Sirus doesn’t want to get in rage. So I force him into a situation that will make him angry. I open with him fighting with Vixen outside the strip club. This drives them apart. Sirus gets irritated and storms off.
But I don’t let the poor sucker fume in peace. I send him into the convenience store and… WHAM! He gets caught in a stick-up. This makes him angry.
I drive him to the point where he explodes. Literally. He blows up the store with a power he never knew he had. This clues us in on what happened in his past and sets off a chain of events which drives the novel.
My point is this: your protag isn’t your best bud. You’ve got to drop them in the poop to get them anywhere. After all, the greatest heroes didn’t become heroes by drinking tea and nibbling on scones all day. No, they lived through the grime, grit and the darkness of despair and came out the other end.
4) What YOU want
So, you’ve got your stakes, your conflict, and your chain of events. What else? Well it depends on who you want your character to be.
I want Sirus to self-actualize. I want him to get rid of his anger. I want him to evolve. So I force him to follow the path that will lead him there. This is what it’s all about. Who he is now and who I want him to be. Writing down the steps that will get him there are interminably important.
Any questions, comments or top tips to share? Leave them in the box and I’ll get back to you.
Bio: Caitlin White
Caitlin is the author of The Harbinger, an urban fantasy eBook available on Kindle. When sheisn’t writing blog posts, reviewing, interviewing and promoting, she’s rescuing her cats from her toddler. Being a single mum and author sure aint easy, but it’s worth it.