The Heroic Journey 16: Stage Two

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Today’s guest post is by David Sims, writer and former writing coach for WriteAtHome.com. It’s the next installment in a series of posts on writing fiction in the vein of The Hero’s Journey.

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Stage Two: From 10 to 20 Percent

The Hero enters the Mythological Woods by crossing the Threshold. He journeys through strange yet deeply familiar forces, learning new rules and being tested, overcoming obstacles and conflicts.

Outer Journey

Most Hero’s Journey stories take place in two different worlds – the World of the Common Day, the Hero’s known, normal, everyday world; and a special world, a Magical World, the Mythological Woods. And the Hero goes from the World of the Common Day into the Mythological Woods by crossing a Threshold.

A threshold is an important thing, it’s a boundary between two spaces distinguishing one world from another. Whatever motivation drew the Hero across the Threshold must have been compelling enough to draw the Hero away from his hobbit hole out into the wild blue unknown. Remember, if the penalty for failure isn’t high, the Hero’s desire won’t be high, the risks won’t be high, the rewards won’t be high, and reader interest sure won’t be high.

There must be a sense of inevitability to the Call, something that rendered the World of the Common Day untenable to him and to push him over the Threshold – if the Hero could possibly step back and go on as before, he needs stronger motivation.

To heighten the drama, it’s a good idea to have great contrasts between the World of the Common Day and the Mythological Woods where the Hero engages the real action of the story. Iin the movie, Witness, for example, the city detective goes from the rough streets (Common Day) to living on an Amish farm (Mythological Woods).

Dorothy goes from black and white Kansas to Technicolor Oz. Jim Hawkins goes from a small inn on the coast to a ship on the sea. Mitch McDeere goes from a small Boston apartment to a fine Memphis house. Hogwarts is dramatically different from the Dursleys’ house where Harry Potter once resided. And the contrasts between the Detroit police station Eddie Murphy’s in at the beginning of Beverly Hills Cop and the one in southern California couldn’t be greater.

The Hero’s accepting the Call to Adventure and his crossing of the Threshold is his Initiation, because here’s where the Hero is initiated into a new life, dies and is reborn, and lives his new, far more challenging life.

And when the Hero has decided to embark on the journey, leaving the World of the Common Day behind, brushing past the Threshold Guardian, he is in a zone of magnified power, the world of the unknown, outside the village, outside his culture and traditions in metaphorical darkness – Here Be Dragons.

He is, in short, in the Mythological Woods. He has embarked on the Road of Trials, and in the Woods he’s aided by the amulet, advice, and secret agents of the supernatural helper, if he has them.

More on that next time.

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. CFloyd
    CFloyd05-02-2012

    What category/tag can I do a search on this site to begin the story or hero journey? I have just finished the Hunger Games, twice, and I really want to compare it to this information, AND my 12yo is thinking about writing a classic hero’s odessy type tale. Thanks for all your hard work!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko05-03-2012

      Hey Cheryl,

      I didn’t know David intended so many articles in that series (don’t get me wrong–I really appreciate his efforts), so I wasn’t very strategic about naming them.

      I’m going to go back through and add “Hero’s Journey” to every title. They will all be searchable that way. I’ll number them too, so you know what order to read them in.

      How’s that?

  2. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko04-25-2012

    As always, you are welcome, Merri.

  3. Merri Larsen
    Merri Larsen04-25-2012

    Thrilled to see this! I’ve been anxiously awaiting Part Two of The Hero’s Journey. My sons learned about the Hero’s Journey in college which encouraged me to study it as well.
    Thanks, Brian!
    ~Merri

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