Journey – Stephanie Hunter

Frankly, I find the concept of the hero’s journey to be kind of depressing. Knowing that the majority of stories are manipulated consciously, or subconsciously, to fit a cookie cutter outline takes a lot of the awe and wonder out of the dynamic of storytelling. It’s like knowing the secret to a magic trick; once you know the pattern you can’t not see it. But it’s everywhere. The universal monomyth underlies classics and new-age stories, for children, youth and adults. The concept seems too organized, too categorized, too systematic to create great stories yet we’re still using it.

Maybe recognition of the secret underlying pattern of the hero’s journey somehow creates in itself a new problem for story writers and for stories themselves. Maybe it boosts the need for greater creativity, complexity and depth in other aspects of the story, like characters, and details. Maybe having a strong base like the hero’s story grants the writer more freedom with the components of the story. Or more fluidity with the actual pattern of the monomyth, allowing for twists and changes.

The monomyth must walk a fine line of finesse to make the traditional new and exciting. In a way, the creation and development of a story parallels the hero’s journey and acts out the various archetypes throughout the creation process. The central elements of the story, theme, plot, characters and conflict, could potentially be viewed as the heroes. The shadow may be writer’s block, time constraints, or negative reviews. The mentors of the story process could be the monomyth pattern, educators, references or life experiences. The herald: an assignment received in the physical, mental or emotional; it may even take the form of a dream. Threshold guardians: the fear of failure, a development budget, time constraints. The shape-shifters archetype may represent a change in the direction of development, a new platform or medium that will be explored. The tricksters of story development may take the shape of faulty technology, like a drained laptop battery when you’re ready to write. And lastly, allies may be supportive family and friends cheering you on to the finish of your own hero’s journey of good story writing.

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3 thoughts on “Journey – Stephanie Hunter

  1. meaganmthornton January 29, 2015 / 5:30 pm

    I agree with you. The idea that all stories must fit into a pre-ordained set of rules in order to succeed is rather depressing.

    I’ve tried the reverse-engineering approach to this theory, and have compared this theory against the stories I adore. Usually the good ones follow the “rules.” The trick to creative storytelling, I think, is to follow the rules without it being obvious that you’re doing so.

    -Amber Sandberg

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  2. meaganmthornton January 30, 2015 / 8:07 am

    Interesting that you brought this topic up because I don’t actually believe that the monomyth pattern, though agreeably annoyingly prevalent within any platform of storytelling, is as much of a curse as you make it out to be. Rather than depressing, I find it interesting that the monomyth is so ubiquitous across long lengths of human history as well as a diversity of cultures. In our modern time, we are able to learn about, study and observe the presence of the monomyth structure but before the term was first coined by Campbell in 1949, for thousands of years the very same story structure was already in effect. What’s truly fascinating is how appealing this structure is to the general audience, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, and culture. Which leads me to believe that there’s something about this structure, something that lies deep within human nature, within our subconscious, that we can take away from to enrich our own storytelling. The goal is to take something fundamental that you already know works and make it your own, stitch it together with a piece of yourself and make it your own.
    -Becky Lin

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  3. meaganmthornton February 8, 2015 / 11:38 pm

    There is some great discussion here. Stephanie I loved your application of the hero’s journey to the writing process. This was a fresh way of using that “depressing” story structure. Well done. -Meagan

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