The 12 Steps of the Hero's Journey: A Crash Course In Structuring Compelling Stories

The 12 Steps of the Hero's Journey: A Crash Course In Structuring Compelling Stories

There are many ways to structure a great story. One of the most popular, though, is also one of the oldest.

I'm talking, of course, about the Hero's Journey. Originally outlined in Joseph Campbell's seminal 1949 book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, the monomyth (now known as the Hero's Journey) applies not only to enduring mythological stories that are thousands of years old, but also many of the greatest films ever made.

If you're familiar with films like Star Wars, Casablanca, Lord of the Rings, O Brother Where Art Thou, or The Matrix, then you've seen the Hero's Journey in action.

Animating The Hero's Journey

With that in mind, there are a pair of incredible animations that I'd like to share with you today, both of which shed light on the mechanics of the Hero's Journey, breaking it down into its individual elements so that you can better understand how to implement it into your own stories if you so choose.

The first comes from Iskander Krayenbosch, a talented motion designer whose colorful interpretation of the Hero's Journey features countless examples from famous films. Check it out:

The second is one that you may have seen already. It comes from an excellent TED Ed lesson by Matthew Winkler, with a stunning animation from Kirill Yeretsky

Last, but not least, here's a visual breakdown from Winkler's lesson that gives you 12 steps of the Hero's Journey, clearly divided between the two distinct worlds that the hero inhabits. Click to enlarge.

It's worth mentioning that though the Hero's Journey is a popular and effective construct with which to tell a story, it's by no means something that must be rigidly adhered to.

More than anything else, it's a guideline that can help you construct compelling personal journeys for each of your characters, particularly your primary protagonist.

But like all guidelines, you're always welcome to modify or flat out ignore them if your story calls for something different.


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