Your Hero's Journey - The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I may have mentioned that I have been working on a novel. I finished my first draft a few weeks ago. First draft is a polite term for a piece of writing that is as incomprehensible as it is unreadable. In this regard, there is little difference between the amateur and the master. A few drafts later, there is all the difference in the world.


    This is the part of the enterprise where the left brain takes over for a little while. In essence, if you’re sinking your boat in chapter thirty, you need to have iceberg warnings in chapter five. Your second draft is where you start making these adjustments. You’re also checking to make sure your heroes are sufficiently likable and villains despicable and a lot more.

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    You’ve probably heard about Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. To vastly oversimplify: Hero sets off on a quest (or the quest imposes itself on the hero), hero enlists friends, deals with problem only to find himself involved in an even greater problem, hero and friends plow ahead only to make things intractability worse, the problem has taken on impossible dimensions, there is no hope, the hero discovers hidden strengths, he or she overcomes the situation and triumphs (or, alternatively tragedy ensues).


    The reason this plot structure works, we are told, is that this sense of quest taps into our deepest experiences and longings. It stirs up profound emotions. It teaches lessons. It’s the universal story, so to speak. In essence, we are telling our own story, over and over. The master story-teller, of course, can break all the rules. The amateur veers off course at his or her own risk.


    So - the last two weeks I have been engaged in left-brain thinking about how my characters and plot lines and all the rest fit into all this. Then I’ll forget all about it and let my right brain take over. In the meantime, we all live our own versions of our hero’s journey. Stuff happens, we have to deal with it. We hit a wall, the situation gets hopeless. Yet, here we are, still breathing. We may not feel like heroes, but the reason we identify with storybook characters in the first place is that there is an element of the hero in all of us.  


    Question: Okay, maybe you don’t see yourself as a hero. But at some point in your life, you faced an intractable problem that you handled with grace and courage. Maybe you messed up really badly. Maybe, years later, you can laugh over what happened. Anyway - tell your story. Go for it ...


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Published On: May 05, 2013