My Study of the Hero’s Journey: An Adventure in Structure

I suck at structure.

Well, I suppose I should broaden that to plot structure, pacing, broad-strokes storytelling … the whole package, really. And maybe “suck” is too strong of a word, but I can say with confidence that it’s among the weakest aspects of my writing.

I’d guess that’s because it’s hard to teach any broad-stroke writing qualities. In my undergrad program, I was taught how to make beautiful sentences. My word choice, sentence clarity, lyricism, imagery, ability to cut needless verbiage, and other aspects of “tight prose” were repeatedly tested and refined. But while I could write thousands of sentences and learn through that process, it is a touch harder to write thousands of novels.

My awareness of this shortcoming has nagged at me for a long time, and I’ve made efforts to improve. Right now, though, I’m intent on focus-firing the issue until it’s nothing but ash.

My approach? Well, the number one thing I’m doing right now is studying conceptual frameworks for classic story structure. It’s not that I want to use this as a paint-by-numbers solution (tiny gods, no). But as I dissect various stories, having the language to describe what I’m seeing seems bound to make those readings more fruitful.

There is no singular framework that “defines” what a classic story is, but there are a few people who have done what they can to analyze the topic. I’m reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces, exploring ideas from Save the Cat, thumbing through Wonderbook, and otherwise diving into the idea. The goal will not be to choose the “right” model for me but to define my own framework and come to my own language.

While I make no guarantees, I currently believe that writing here in a rather free-form way will be to my advantage. I intend to revise and re-revise my way of thinking as I move forward, but provide updates here along the way as long as that approach remains useful.

So it’s a sort of adventure of my own into the mysteries of the hero’s journey. I’ll link to new posts below as I write them.

Write on,

Rob