What is the hero’s journey?

The hero’s journey is the epic structure defined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Campbell argues that the great enduring myths from around the world all share an underlying structure he calls the “monomyth.” In the introduction to his book, Campbell breaks it down:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Modern writers like Phil Cousineau, David Adams and Christopher Vogler have expanded upon, broken down, and/or modernized Campbell’s structure in their books. Vogler’s The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers explains the journey in a screenwriter-friendly way.

He breaks it down into twelve major steps:

  1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD, where
  2. they receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE.
  3. They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL, but
  4. are encouraged by a MENTOR to
  5. CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the Special World, where
  6. they encounter TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES.
  7. They APPROACH THE INMOST CAVE, crossing a second threshold
  8. where they endure the ORDEAL.
  9. They take possession of their REWARD and
  10. are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World.
  11. They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION, and a transformed by the experience.
  12. They RETURN WITH THE ELIXER, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World.