Previously from the category On Writing
Last year I did a post titled The Journey We Know & Love. It explored Joseph Campbell’s writings about the monomyth, or the idea that all stories can be linked together through a series of similar events that take place within them.
This week’s post on writing will cover the basic archetypes in the hero’s journey. This skeletal arrangement of characters can be found in almost every story you pick up. Solid foundations for building characters for your own story, they will beckon the question: “Where else have I seen them?”
1) The Hero
Although average at first, the hero will incur the most development throughout your story. They are the focal point; A wanderer without a cause willing to do anything for a new and exciting life.
Readers want stories about heroes they can relate to. Heroes who, against all reasonable doubt, leave their average life to pursue the unknown. They want a life full of excitement and adventure, and your readers want to see them face resistance, physical and metaphysical, time and time again only to overcome them and grow into the hero we need.
2) The Herald
You have your hero outlined, but what’s next? You need something that gets the gears turning. You need a Herald, But what exactly is a herald. A Herald is someone or something that brings news of coming events. Never forget that your herald doesn’t have to be a person. Ideas, events, and simple objects can herald a story as well.
Whatever you decide, just remember that it can be something as small as a key or as large as world war III. A good rule of thumb is to remember that your hero’s journey will take a plunge into the unknown after the herald has revealed itself. This is where the real story begins, so be sure the herald is something that make the story take a necessary plunge. Flip that comfy world upside down.
3) The Trickster
These journeys can be lonely, and your character isn’t interesting enough to get dozens of pages to themselves. Fret not, little scribblers, because help is on the way. Que the entrance of The Trickster, stage left.
Even though it could come at the expense of your hero losing their sanity, the trickster creates comic relief through mischief, and are often times companions to the hero. The trickster will become your outlet for those wacky spells of satirical writing that you get. Just keep in mind that every hero needs an equally interesting sidekick.
4) The Mentor
There your hero stands, ready to face what lies ahead, but even the most determined heroes will get discouraged as time passes in the story. If only they had someone to help guide them through those rigorous conflicts. This is where we see The Mentor show their faces.
What’s the greatest thing about mentors? They can be anything from a powerful wizard, a ghost in a forest where our hero is lost, or a stumbling drunk from whose mistakes are the hero’s main source of knowledge.
Your mentor can be the hero’s best friend, worst enemy, or even their annoying sibling. It’s your story, so make them as wonderfully bright or as horribly distasteful as possible. just remember that they are the hero’s go-to for advice, so make them worth everyone’s time.
5) Threshold Guardians
That plot device in the next room will stop the biggest fear your hero has, but did you really think you could just have your character waltz in and stop it? Having things come too easy is boring; hence, you need conflict. So let’s bring in the Threshold Guardians.
These are the thugs, the henchmen, the ones who were late for the audition of the villain and took the next best thing. They are just as evil as the villain, but with less finesse. Don’t let that fool you. They won’t go down without swinging everything they have in the name of evil. Get your hero prepped and ready for the semi-finals because it’s going to be a bloodbath to the top.
6) The Shapeshifter
So, you made it this far? Great! There’s only one more thing you have to account for before getting to the climax of your story.
Your character is just about to enter the final boss’s room when suddenly, they get stabbed. But wait, there’s more. Not only was the wielder of the knife their mentor, but he’s has been a Shapeshifter this whole time, too.
Bear in mind, not all shapeshifters are evil, but one thing you can always count on the shapeshifter to do is showing small hints through the story. They’re on the fence about something. The question is, how are you going to give the big reveal.
7) The Shadow
It’s all come down to this moment. After everything, your down to the last door you have to traverse. The only thing between your hero and certain victory is The Shadow.
This journey has left your hero bloodied, beaten, twisted, broken, and left to die; but they still come back stronger than ever. They’re ready to face the shadow. It all comes down to how you want this journey to end. You want your hero to slaughter the likes of this impertinent filth, or will he fall by the hand of the villain that you’ve spent hours crafting while also thinking of your ex for some reason?
No matter how your story goes or how you decide to shape your characters, keep in mind two simple rules:
1) Be original
2) Just write the damn thing already
Also, never forget that these archetypes are generalizations. To a writer this word should ring in a similar manner to tha of clay, if only for the fact that both of them have the capability to be molded and changed. So mold them to your liking and make a hero’s journey of your own.
Make your story Unique, tell the truth as you see it, and make your story a journey that will never be forgotten.