If you haven't heard of Joseph Campbell's iconic heroic monomyth, you've no doubt been influenced by it. The monomyth is the series of steps a hero (or protagonist) goes through in 98% of adventure stories. Before reading this how-to, I will direct your attention to the EXTERNAL LINK, which will take you to a website that summarizes the stages of a hero's journey. Please go through it, come back here, and read my expansion on it. If you're interested in reading it in Campbell's original words, Google "the hero with a thousand faces pdf" and the first link is the full text of his book on the subject. :)
Campbell's monomyth is a fascinating backbone of plots. George Lucas knowingly structured his first Star Wars movie (Episode 4) around Campbell's monomyth. We all know that Christopher Paolini took heavy inspiration from that movie when writing Eragon, so it fits the structure almost exactly. Many Disney movies follow the monomyth as well. I know this because I have several friends who wrote papers comparing many Disney movies like Aladdin, Finding Nemo, and Mulan to the monomyth. And guess what. They all fit!
If you're having trouble with your plots, referring to Campbell's monomyth is a good idea. Some of you may have heard that there are only a handful of plots. Some of you may have heard there is only one universal plot every story (every good one, anyway) follows. (mono = 1. Myth = story. monomyth = 1 story) I am a strong proprieter that there is only perhaps 2 or 3 plots every story follows, and the majority of them follow Campbell's monomyth. If you study the technicalities of how stories are structured, even if you think you already know, you'll get a much better understanding of how to craft a satisfying story.
Try this out for yourself! Pick your favorite movie or book and go through each step of the monomyth. Can you spot the elements? (Note: not every step will be covered in every story, but you'll find that the main components of Departure, Initiation, and Return are always prevalent. At least, I have yet to come across an adventure story that doesn't have those components.) If you do some snooping online, you'll find hundreds of analyses on Campbell's monomyth, so it really is an important thing for any writer to read through and understand. That's not to say you must follow every step of the monomyth when writing your story. You still have all the creative freedom in the world. Do whatever you want, but this is just something to look into, something to expand your mind. :)
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