by Darcy Pattison
Star Wars as a Model for Hero’s Journey
Have you ever used the Hero’s Journey to plot? Last night on the History Channel, I watched, “Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed.” Essentially, it went through all the elements of a hero’s journey and talked about how the six Star Wars movies epitomized the hero’s journey in multi-layered and complex ways.
For many years, I’ve been a fan of Christopher Vogler’s book, The Writer’s Journey, Second Edition: Mythic Structure for Writers. He takes the hero’s journey and makes it easy for the writer to understand and use.
The stages of a Hero’s Journey are the Ordinary World, Call to Action, Refusal of Call, Meeting with Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Tests & Allies & Enemies, Approach to Inmost Cave, Supreme Ordeal, Seizing the Sword (reward), The Road Back, Resurrection, Return with the Elixir.
Vogler suggest typical events for each stage. For example, after the character has crossed into the new world of the quest (Luke agrees to go with Obi-Wan) there is often a “watering hole” scene, where the character meets the locals, learns new ways of acting and scopes out the landscape. So, Luke and Obi-Wan go to a cantina to find passage on a space ship. In “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, Jessica Rabbit sings in the nightclub.
In particular, I like that the emotional/inner climax is clearly mapped in the hero’s journey. Like many plot schemes and paradigms, the middle of the novel is the hardest to manage in the hero’s journey and you can easily wind up with a sagging middle. But it’s stronger than many other paradigms. Usually, from the midpoint to the end, I manage to plot well with this paradigm. It’s just the beginning of Act 2 to the the midpoint that still is nebulous–rightly so, of course, because each story has its own needs and you can only discuss it in general.
The Hero’s Journey works well for fantasy stories, of course, but it also works for contemporary stories, if you just extrapolate a bit. Some worry that this is a canned program for a plot. It’s not. It’s a paradigm that draws upon mythic structure and shows how a typical myth might handle a subject. But Vogler has lots of examples of how the structure might vary for a story.
For example, in the movie, “Death Becomes Her,” it’s really a story about temptation, or a “call to action”. Each character is tempted to accept a potion which allows them to live forever. Only the character who “refuses the call” escapes the living death of a body that is falling apart and gets the true elixir of a “natural death.” In other words, it’s a flexible paradigm.
If you are totally unfamiliar with the Hero’s Journey, but you’re a Star Wars fan, you could start by watching the video “Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed. If you know the paradigm, but want to use it in your writing, look at Vogler’s book: The Writer’s Journey, Second Edition: Mythic Structure for Writers.