Wednesday, August 2, 2023

7 Steps in Writing the Heroes Journey

by Sarah Sally Hamer @SarahSallyHamer

Because I’m a writer and teacher of writing, I became acquainted with Joseph Campbell’s version of The Hero’s Journey decades ago. Its basic structure, one of an understanding of the journeys we all take during our lifetime, is also the basis of almost every story told, no matter when, who, or where in the world it was told. Every continent, every culture, every era since humans began to tell stories—probably before and after hunts where they danced around a campfire—have the same structure. (NOTE: I use Hero and Heroine interchangeably.)

Of course, writing stories isn’t the only use of The Hero’s Journey. It actually is the foundation of how our lives work. We follow the same path as do the heroes and heroines we read about or watch on a TV screen. Our video games are wrapped around a journey that includes times of great adventure, great despair, and great courage. In our “real” life, we have questions to answer, conundrums to solve, villains and dragons to slay, and a time of not knowing what to do next. But we persevere, we determined humans, and we create a better place for us, our families, our world. This is The Heroine’s Journey.

This Journey has many stops along the way. We’re going to concentrate on seven steps, although different people use different numbers, because I like to keep it simple.

7 Steps for Writing the Heroes Journey

1. Ordinary World

We all start somewhere. Our Ordinary World is a culmination of everything that has happened to us up to this point. It’s our point of view, our worldview, our story—all the things that meld together to make us the “I am”. What do you believe? What do you think? Why do you make the decisions you do? How do you react to various situations? In other words, who are you, exactly? 

2. Initial Understanding 

What is your “Need to Change” Pattern? What is currently going on in your life? Do you see something you’re not happy with? Why? What frequency are you holding? Is it working for you? This is the place where Dorothy in The Wizard of Ozsings her song about where she could be happy, if she was just on the other side of the rainbow. Are you happy where you are or should you change something to find that sweet spot?

3. Recognition of the need to change something in your life. 

Other people can see the “real” you, often better than you yourself can. We attract these people into our lives to show us what isn’t going well and what needs to be examined and changed. Look around you. What do you see? Are you in a healthy, happy relationship with your family, friends, work, and people you casually come into contact with? Or do you find yourself constantly in turmoil and unhappiness? This is what you’re reflecting on the world, based on who you actually are inside. The mask must come off and the reality of who you are must be revealed. 

4. Revealing the Hidden

Reveal the truth of who you are. The lies, the terrors, the goblins within are old survival habits. Although our society demands that we control our worst instincts, we often are forced into being something we’re not. We’re told who we are—given labels—by the people who surround us from birth: You’re so dumb! You know better! Don’t slam the door! Girls can’t do math. Boys can’t cry. So, that’s who we become, a conglomerate of the ideas of who we should be according to our parents, siblings, teachers, friends. By opening the door to our inner selves, we are given the chance to see what we can do to truly “Know Thyself” as is written above the door into the Delphi Temple in Greece, and become the person we deserve to be.

5. We are Divinely Supported 

Spirit, Divine, God—whatever the term you decide to use—is available and willing to help you. You only need ask. 

6. The Battle for Our Self

Now, we make choices. Do we truly want to change? When does the pain become greater than the fear? Can we step forward and truly become what we deserve to be?

7. Winning the Battle

We have gone through the layers of the journey, discovering the obstacles that have held us back. Now, with the bright light of day shining on our old fears, we can create new and wonderful patterns and new paths to happiness, health, success, and peace of mind.

Yes, this is the pattern in almost every story you’ve ever been told. Since the journey is based on humans, it’s a completely human experience. 

What is your experience? Is it truly yours or is it something you’ve been told is yours? 

Who are you?


Sarah (Sally) Hamer, B.S., MLA, is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. Most of all, she is eternally fascinated by people and how they 'tick'. She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories, whether through fiction or through memoir. Writing in many genres—mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, medieval history, non-fiction—she has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals.

A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for over twenty years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at WWW.MARGIELAWSON.COM. Sally is a free-lance editor and book coach at Touch Not the Cat Books, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors. You can find her at HAMERSE@BELLSOUTH.NET or WWW.SALLYHAMER.BLOGSPOT.COM

Featured Image: Photo by Robin Schreiner on Unsplash