Why “The Hero’s Journey”?

wonderwoman-0Almost 30 years ago, I had the insight that the “Hero’s Journey” pattern found in all world fiction was universal because it reflected the path to human action.  That in essence you could fill in the known aspects of the pattern, and the unknowns would suggest themselves, much as if you have three points on a circle, you can fill in the rest of the curve.

The door to excellence is flow state.  And flow state is achieved by addressing a task difficult enough to demand your full attention, but not so taxing that it creates frustration and panic.  Keith Kato (physicist, Shotokan expert and chili cook!) told me a story about visiting the Shotokan karate headquarters in Tokyo.  There, he saw an advanced class where for hours the students, all experts, went up and down across the floor performing just three techniques.  I believe it was a reverse punch, a front kick, and a back-knuckle.   Hundreds and hundreds of repetitions, over and over again.  Deadly dull to the untrained eye. To the aware?  Simply deadly.

There is the story of the cat and the fox meeting in the forest, chased by dogs. The cat was scared, the fox calm.  “Why aren’t you scared?” the cat said.  The fox said: “oh, I’m not worried.   I know a hundred ways to get away from dogs.”  “Wow,” the cat said.  “I only know one.”

The dogs came.  The fox was so paralyzed trying to figure out which of his hundred techniques to use that he was torn to pieces.

The cat ran up the tree.


There are countless plot structures that are used and taught. Most of them are useful, none of them are a substitute for actual writing, any more than a map is ever the same as the territory. But maps are useful, and so are plots.

But just as so long as you’re going “one two three, one two three” as you move, you simply aren’t dancing until the counting is forgotten, you aren’t writing as long as you are limited by the plot structure.  Story is a living thing.  So MY approach is to choose a plot structure that we already know, that we understand intimately if unconsciously.   As soon as you’ve made the conscious connection between the story pattern and the life pattern, you see that you’ve known this all your life, in all your actions, and in every movie or television episode you’ve ever watched.   

And that accelerates the process of transferring the information from conscious to unconscious mind, which speeds the rate at which you can forget the pattern, and just “feel” what you are doing.  If you run into problems, you can retreat to the pattern–it is always there.  But what you really want is simply to write, and enjoy writing.

What we are going to do in the “Hotseat” sessions is look at the story from the inside-out and the outside-in.   Character, plot, theme, poetics, intent, dominating emotions.   This is not an “is it good” analysis (although that sometimes comes in) but an evaluation of process as much as product.  If your PROCESS is sound, then eventually your product will reach your maximum expression. You will be as good as YOU can be, and no one can ask more than that if you embrace the experience of art.

If you’d like your story to be considered, please post a paragraph describing it on the “Hotseat submission” thread on the Masteryplus site.  All Lifewriting Premium and Revolutionary Art folks should have access, and if you don’t please drop us a note at support@masteryplus.com

If you’d like to join, you have four more days before we close the doors until February.  Behind those closed doors we want to concentrate on helping our current students.  There is now SO much value on the site, well over THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS in downloads and online classes, available for only ONE DOLLAR for the first month.  All we ask is that you actually give us a chance to help you. http://www.createthenarrative.com

Write with passion!

Steven Barnes



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