The Hero's Journey

Freelancing is a bit of a bubble at times, so it's great when you get a chance to meet with lots of people pursuing similar goals. It gives you a chance to compare notes and learn from those you admire.

At the Well Told Festival I got the chance to hear from several people and learned a lot. I also had that reassuring moment where I realised a lot of the good advice I was hearing was already part of my practice. One moment was listening to Jeff Maysh talking about how he structures his stories for maximum impact. Jeff thinks of his stories as a play, or a film. It helps him to have a framework to hang things on, but also means that if he produces the right material someone might actually want to buy the rights to produce a film based on the story.

Jeff models many stories on The Hero's Journey - If you've done any writing, film or audio work yourself you're probably already familiar with the concept of the 7 stories. All of the stories we tell take place in 7 broad frameworks.

Using the frameworks from these stories can help yours to have impact. It's something I do myself whenever I produce a new piece. I look at which structure might fit the story best, other stories which have similar rises and falls in the plot and try to match up some of the elements to help to structure my own story.

One of the projects I'm working on at the moment falls in an interesting area, where it would happily fit into different frameworks depending on which parts you focus on. It's often the case that stories fit more than one of the 7, but in this case it's provided me with a really interesting perspective on the main character.

With care, playing between the different types of tale can produce something powerful. By introducing the right amount of doubt you can push your readers to make inferences about the main character, their motives and actions. In the case of my story it would fit The Hero's Journey, the protagonist steps into a world they didn't expect to be in, they need guidance along the way, there is a point where they think they'll succeed, a further setback before the return.

The contrasts are the most interesting thing to me; our hero doesn't need to be beyond reproach, the key setback in the story is actually a thing to revel in in retrospect. It was the moment where they realised that this is it - success is in doubt, but they know that they've become the people they set out to be. The transformative effect on the character is always the key.

Pleasingly the story can fit a different narrative. Rather than the Voyage and Return, a coming of age, it could be framed as bittersweet. The achievement by the end is such that our hero might never surpass it. Is the victory worth it then? Alexander the Great supposedly crid when he realised he had no worlds left to conquer.

I'll write more on this once I've finally untangled the narrative I'm looking for in the story.

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