The Hero’s Journey

13 Sep


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Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can follow her on LiveJournal here and on Twitter here.


37 Responses to “The Hero’s Journey”

  1. Sarah J. Maas September 13, 2010 at 12:53 AM #

    FANTASTIC explanation of Campbell’s theories/findings!

    Years ago, I was about 3/4 through writing the rough draft of entire QOG trilogy (like…somewhere in Book 3), when a FP fan asked me if I’d read HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. When I said no, she said that QOG followed Campbell’s formula almost to a T. So I looked up Campbell/his teachings and was AMAZED at how it all lined up with QOG. It was like…a moment where I felt intensely connected to all of the storytellers who had lived before me, all the way back to Homer…and earlier.

    Corny, I know. But it was just mind-blowing to realize I’d been writing this trilogy for so long, completely unaware that I was partaking in this storytelling tradition that goes back thousands of years.

    I’d seriously put HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES on the must-read list for any aspiring writing. And while I’m at it, I’d also add THE SACRED AND THE PROFANE by Mircea Eliade. Even though I read it in college for a course on Russian fairytales/folklore, it was REALLY eye-opening about our storytelling heritage and how we (as humans) define/identify the world around us.

    Wonderful post, Julie!!!!!!!

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 12:34 PM #

      Thanks Sarah! I actually thought about QoG as I drew up this post! It was the first time I realized how much it followed mythological structure. Glad you liked the post!

  2. Savannah J. Foley September 13, 2010 at 9:10 AM #

    It’s amazing how I was planning for my new novel to take exactly this path, without even realizing this was standard!

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 12:37 PM #

      Hey Savannah, You should be thrilled that you followed this path subconsciously. That’s the proof that it truly is something imbedded in our humanity, and shows you are calling on all of your storytelling heritage. Kinda gives me goosebumps! =D

  3. authorguy September 13, 2010 at 9:43 AM #

    My first novel follows this path almost exactly. I was later told, by Tanya Huff in the cover quote she gave me for it, that it reminded her of one of the great mythological journeys in Chinese history! I try to be original, but only in the lesser sense. I don’t think anyone can be so original that they wouldn’t fall into any of these categories.

    Marc Vun Kannon

    • Savannah J. Foley September 13, 2010 at 11:53 AM #

      You’re so right. I was just thinking, ‘now how could I come up with a story that DIDN’T follow this formula’ but the fact of the matter is that if I did, the story wouldn’t be very good.

      • authorguy September 13, 2010 at 12:13 PM #

        Like that South Park episode where they tried to create a Christmas play that offended nobody. All the kids were rolling around on the floor uttering nonsense words, and all the parents were saying “What the hell is THIS?”

        It may be doable but I can’t imagine anyone would want to read it.

        • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM #

          Heehee great South Park reference! So true, too.

      • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 12:40 PM #

        I know! My rebel tendencies make me want to defy the pattern, too, but the truth is that the real challenge is to be original within the form. 🙂

        • authorguy September 13, 2010 at 1:06 PM #

          Very true. Anybody can write random garbage. I have to say that the Hero’s Journey is a pretty wide-ranging form, though. It would take work to be so bad that nothing applied.

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 12:39 PM #

      Wow! What a compliment to be told that your novel reminded someone of a myth from far across the globe! I love to hear stories like that. It really gives me a wonderful sense of the connectedness of writers, despite time and place. Thanks for the comment!

      • authorguy September 13, 2010 at 1:04 PM #

        It floored me, too. I’d never heard of the Chinese Monkey God or his adventures. You can bet I looked it up immediately, though. I met Tanya Huff at Lunacon this year. She’d forgotten the book until I showed her the quote, and she shrieked “I LOVED that book!” I gave her a copy of the sequel. It seems even her cover quotes are under agent control, though, so she couldn’t do one for my werewolf paranormal.

  4. priscillashay September 13, 2010 at 10:46 AM #

    haha..I think I’m on the right path…my first 3 chapters contain steps 1-6.

    THanks Julie!

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 12:46 PM #

      Hey Priscilla! Doesn’t it give you a great sense of security to know that you are writing in the same mythical structure that has succeeded throughout the ages? I wish I could say the same. After drawing up this post, I took a look at my current WIP and realized why things really weren’t working. At least I have an idea how to approach the revision! Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  5. Kat Zhang September 13, 2010 at 1:14 PM #

    I wrote my IB Extended Essay on the Hero’s Journey and how it pertained to THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ! It’s really amazing how well it works.

    • authorguy September 13, 2010 at 1:22 PM #

      There’s a bit of a discussion about that in Wolf Who Rules by Wen Spencer. The heroine, Tinker, is having prophetic dreams, one of which is cast in terms of the Wizard of Oz, which she’s never seen or heard of. One of her guards tries to explain it to her as a Heroic Journey.

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 1:22 PM #

      Wow, Kat, that’s so fitting since I took many of my examples for the post from The Wizard of Oz. And congrats on the IB Extended Essay! My son is pursuing the IB. I think his essay topic was on the impact of war on main characters in three different novels. Your topic sounds like it was MUCH more fun!

      • Kat Zhang September 13, 2010 at 5:01 PM #

        Yeah, it was a lot of fun 🙂 I got a much better score on it than I did for my Theory of Knowledge essay ;P

        I didn’t know you son was doing IB! I loved it, really. (Okay, so maybe not so much senior year, when my life became reduced to a string of IB projects and testing…and testing…and MORE testing. But over all, it was great)

  6. tymcon September 13, 2010 at 2:43 PM #

    Very good post. Pretty awesome. Now i’m back to study:P

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 2:51 PM #

      Thanks for commenting! And since reading this post was surely educational, you don’t need to feel guilty about the study break! 😉

  7. Myra September 13, 2010 at 8:17 PM #

    We just covered this in my mythology class last week! We looked at the Adventure of the Hero in my textbook and then we watched a documentary interviewing Joseph Campbell (interspaced with many Star Wars clips ;p).

    It’s interesting how my textbook differs from this–it’s divided in three sections with five or six subheadings. Some titles are the same (The Call to Adventure) and some are different (The Belly of the Whale, bracketed with “the unknown”), though they’re essentially the same thing (Belly of the Whale being Approach to the Inmost Cave). I find this really interesting because I love mythology, and also because I can apply it to my writing and reading. I can draw so many parallels from this.

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 10:11 PM #

      Hey Myra! Yes, some of the titles of the steps in the Journey are adapted by Christopher Vogler in his book, The Writer’s Journey. I think he was trying to simplify (dumb down??) Campbell’s theories for writers. He acknowledges Campbell’s terminology, but I think he puts a bit of a screenplay writer’s “spin” on things. It’s awesome that you got to study Campbell in class, and “yay!” for Star Wars clips! 🙂

  8. lostinbelieving September 13, 2010 at 8:18 PM #

    Haha, I learned about the Hero’s Journey in English class last year ! It was really interesting, but parts of it always confused me xD Great post !

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 13, 2010 at 10:16 PM #

      Thanks! I wish I’d had the chance to learn Campbell’s theories in English class! I first encountered Campbell when they made a PBS series called “The Power of Myth.” I hope the post made some of the confusing stuff clearer. 🙂

  9. Samantha Walker September 14, 2010 at 1:17 AM #

    I actually used this method to outline my WIP, except I didn’t know it! I went through a ton of books that were similar to the genre I’m writing in, and broke them all down, first by beginning, middle, end, and then narrower and narrower until I had broken down each book entirely. I found what each book had in common during certain parts (when something BIG happens, when something BAD happens, etc.) and then outlined my WIP based on the need for certain events to take place.

    All along I was using The Hero’s Journey without even really knowing it. XD (would have saved me a lot of time, had this post happened a few months ago, lol)

    • Savannah J. Foley September 14, 2010 at 10:33 AM #

      Now that’s dedication!

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 14, 2010 at 6:05 PM #

      OMGosh Samantha! I wish I could’ve posted this sooner and saved you a lot of effort. However… what you did was really clever and in a way, you were the Joseph Campbell of your genre! Although I didn’t do anything nearly as extensive as what you did, I did refer to books in my genre to see if the “big events” seemed to happen at about the same interval as they did in my WIP. I was shocked that they nearly matched exactly! Just shows how ingrained the pattern really is. 🙂

      • Samantha Walker September 15, 2010 at 4:40 PM #

        Having this helps, still! Makes outlining a breeze 😀

  10. Biljana September 14, 2010 at 8:28 PM #

    Love this article! Very concise and to the point and I always thought this stuff was fascinating! So many different stories but it’s really all the same…

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 14, 2010 at 8:45 PM #

      Hey Biljana! Thanks for the comment. I think this is fascinating, too! It’s like we’re all born with the form inside of us. 🙂

  11. Vanessa September 15, 2010 at 11:23 AM #

    Julie, this was a FANTASTIC article! Being the English Lit major that I am, I’ve always enjoyed reading literary/writing theories!

    I also love how you used Star Wars as an example! ❤ It's incredible how this formula has been used for AGES, by people all over the world!

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM #

      Thanks V! I find it incredible myself! Like you, I can’t get enough of Star Wars examples, because the original three are just the most compelling representations of modern mythology (IMHO, at least!) Thanks for the comment!

      • Vanessa September 16, 2010 at 10:03 AM #

        LOVE the original three Star Wars movies!!! (Also, totally had a major crush on Harrison Ford as a kid – Hans Solo AND Indiana Jones? HEAVEN! lol – but I digress!).

        But seriously, I love that you bring up theories in some of your posts! ❤ Makes me want to start taking more English Lit classes!


  1. How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis « Let The Words Flow - November 24, 2010

    […] can be placed in that space.  You will likely notice that the worksheet is very similar to the Hero’s Journey (because most stories follow that format!), an I have filled out the questions using my All Time […]

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