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.