It’s All in the Journey by Nevada McPherson
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Nevada McPherson as she shares with us “It’s All in the Journey.” Enjoy!
This week I’ve been discussing story structure with my classes and it started me thinking about how the steps of the Hero’s Journey might look if I were to try and trace those steps through my own life.
Many of you are likely familiar with the Hero’s Journey, but if not, it’s a time-tested, age-old structure for storytelling that follows a hero from his/her ordinary world (following the “call to adventure,”) through the “special world” of the story.
During this journey the hero encounters enemies and allies while undergoing tests and trials along the way, until the hero returns to the ordinary world with a magical object, elixir, special understanding, or knowledge.
The hero’s journey and character archetypes associated with it are explored extensively by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Drawing from Campbell’s work, author Chris Vogler examines the hero’s journey as regards screenwriters and storytellers in his book, The Writer’s Journey.
Story structure, for me, was one of the hardest things to learn when I first started writing, and even now it can be very challenging.
The Writer’s Journey helped me to develop a better understanding of structure, and how this particular pattern cuts across genres to captivate audiences.
The Hero’s Journey helped me to put together the nuts and bolts of beginnings, to bridge the space in that vast second act that can be so intimidating, and to bring things full circle when the hero, having survived the “supreme ordeal” and final difficulties of “the road back” shares what s/he has learned, to contribute to the greater good.
Some writers may feel a bit constricted by this (or any, for that matter) story structure, and certainly not every story is meant to be structured this way.
Perhaps even your own hero’s journey story map circles back in some places where you’d prefer to keep going forward; I know mine certainly does.
However, perhaps the circling back happens when there’s something in our lives that needs further examination, revision, or revamping. In the hero’s journey, any steps the hero skips or fails to master have to be repeated, so until a hero proves his or her mettle, s/he is not ready to move on.
I suppose each of us is the hero in our own journey. We all have enemies and allies (hopefully more allies than enemies), and we all have tests and trials we must overcome to return with the elixir or special knowledge that will benefit our nearest and dearest, as well as our whole community.
Just for fun, trace the steps of the hero’s journey through the arc of one of your main characters. I plan to do this with a couple of upcoming projects; it helps!
Cheers to all you NaNoWriMo folks out there—see you on the other side of November!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nevada McPherson lives with her husband Bill and rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is an associate professor of Humanities at Georgia Military College. Nevada received a BA in English/Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. She has written over a dozen feature-length screenplays, plays, short stories and the graphic novels, Uptowners and Piano Lessons. Queensgate, the sequel to Uptowners, is her third graphic novel. For more information, visit www.nevada-mcpherson.com.