How to Use the Hero’s Journey as a Writing Exercise
Joseph Campbell introduced us to “The Hero’s Journey” a writing outline that describes many of the popular works of fiction currently on the shelves or in the movie bin. Some of the best known pieces of writing or motion picture magic have most, if not all, elements of the Hero’s Journey including Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. But you can actually use the Hero’s Journey as an exercise if you want. Make some delicious dessert using a modern ice cream maker, and let’s talk about some ways to do just that.
Ordinary World: Write a page about the ordinary world that a character might live in. If you don’t have a character, just make up a name and then describe their world.
Call to Adventure: Take your character to the moment when they are faced with a choice, and write the internal dialogue that they experience when trying to make that choice.
Refusal of the Call: Heroes often refuse the call-to-action at least once. Remember when Obi-Wan told Luke he must become a Jedi and Luke refused? Write your character’s refusal.
Meeting with the Mentor: Sometimes, these steps appear out of order. For example, Luke Skywalker met with his mentor before he refused the call. You can write it however you like.
Crossing the First Threshold: This is where you can write the hero embarking on his or her adventure.
Tests, Allies, Enemies: Choose a confrontation with an enemy, a first meeting with an ally or a test that your hero must face and write about it as an exercise.
Approach: Write about how your character approaches the main quest. Think about what they might have learned and how prepared they are for it.
Reward: When your character finally defeats the enemy and gets the reward, how will they react? What will they do next? Most importantly, how has the experience changed them? Write a scene where your character has won the day and think about what sort of things they might be saying to themselves and how they might be feeling.
The Road Back: This is the very beginning of the last stage of your climax. Your hero is on a journey and has accomplished the goal of that journey. But there is still some loose ends that need to be tied up. They have to be written a clear and accessible exit from the world of the quest to the real world.
Resurrection Hero: The final scene in your climax should show the character changing drastically so that they are finally able to accomplish the tasks that are required to complete the final encounter – even if it is with themselves.
Return with Elixir: Finally, write about your character’s reception, all of the people who didn’t believe they could do it, and the celebration that ensues from them saving the world.
For more writing exercises, check out Reedsy