The Hero’s Journey Formula – How To Write A Successful Novel
You will be familiar with The Hero’s Journey, even if you haven’t heard of it by name.
Star Wars, Matrix and Jane Eyre are just a few of the classic stories that follow The Hero’s Journey formula.
One vital component of the correctly applied formula is that at the beginning of the story, the protagonist can not possibly imagine how much their life is to change. They’ll go on a journey, their ‘character arc.’ As the plot moves along, so does their transformation.
In Star Wars Luke Skywalker has his dreams but in the wildest of those dreams he couldn’t contemplate his vital role in the fight against Darth Vader (No spoilers here just in case you happen to be the one person on the planet who isn’t aware of the storyline.)
Jane Eyre travels through her life and against all odds survives and ends up in a life she too couldn’t possibly have dreamt of. (Again, I won’t spoil your enjoyment of my favourite book, please read it, it’s beautiful.)
Fiction writers, especially new ones, sometimes fight the idea of conforming to a genre or sticking with a formula. They think it may suppress their creativity, but this isn’t the case.
If I use this formula won’t my story be predictable?
By being formulaic it doesn’t mean it will be boring or predictable. It will however be written in a way that your fans know what to expect. Fiction book readers like a story they can expect to a certain extent. This is why publishers usually give you clues. In the blurb or reviews on a book cover it will often say things like ‘If you like Harry Potter…’ or ‘This writer is the new Baldacci…’ these pointers help your fans find your book in the mass market that is the modern day bookshelf, whether that be in a physical book store or a digital one.
Don’t get me wrong readers like to know what they will get but it’s how you introduce twists and hooks, and how sympathetic your characters end up, that keeps them turning the pages. Browsing the shelves in a book store most shoppers go to the books arranged by genre, thrillers, romances, murder mystery etc. This means they’re sure to get something they’ll recognise, it will bring them the plot, action and characters that they trust and enjoy.
Still struggling to get your head around it?
Well, think of baking or cooking. No not now! I mean just imagine this situation. You’re inviting a friend to lunch, you ask ‘Do you like Italian food?’ or ‘Do you like chocolate cake?’ At the same time your neighbour is doing the same with their friends.
Later that day you bump into your neighbour at the store check out and look at each other’s shopping. Have you bought the same things? No. Well almost maybe but unless you’re twins it’ll be similar but not the same. You’ll probably have pasta, cheese, chocolate, coffee etc however they’ll be different brands, types, packets etc. You have probably dropped in a nice bottle of wine, they’ve opted for beer and cola.
The formula is the recipe, the ingredients will depend on your taste, the result will be what your friend expects but with your own twist on it.
I’d love to know more! How can I find out how to write The Hero’s Journey?
If it’s good enough for Charlotte Bronte, whether she knew she was working in that way or not, I’m happy to give it a go.
I’d love to help you a little bit more, so if you click this link you’ll be able to download your
It gives you a more detailed overview of The Hero’s Journey and character arcs, together with printable PDF planners for you to start planning your next book.
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