The Hero’s Journey outlines the main building blocks of pretty much all movies, books, or, for that matter, any story in general. It’s best not to take each step too literally or too methodically, but following it’s basic format tends to lead to a more fulfilled story and sense of narrative direction.
I’m going to use Guardian’s of Galaxy 2 as an example here in my breakdown since I watched it pretty much yesterday. And I like it. And just because.
1. Ordinary World
The beginning of the story. This is where the hero and setting are introduced.
This shows life where the hero is settled and comfortable.
In this case, we open with the Guardians on one of their normal adventures, fighting a giant tentacle monster and then being chased through asteroid storms or whatever for stealing batteries. Shits and giggles for the guardians.
This is where the hero’s conflict/ quest first makes itself known.
In this case, it’s the arrival of Ego, Starlord’s father.
The hero, or a friend, are fearful and reluctant to set out.
Here, Starlord confides in Gamora that he doesn’t trust Ego.
Enter a seasoned character armed with advice or equipment for the hero.
Gamora convinces Starlord to follow Ego. Ego becomes his father figure.
2. Special World
The middle of the story. This is where the hero grows and changes, forges new relationships and enemies, faces inner or outer conflicts, and generally overcomes minor problems along the way towards their main objective.
This is where the hero officially commits to their call – mentally or physically. Their journey begins and they leave their old life behind – no turning back. Starlord accompanies Ego on his ship to his home planet.
- Tests, Allies and Enemies
Numerous mini-conflicts where the hero makes allies and enemies. Rocket escapes a death sentence with Yondu and Kraglin; Gamora survives Nebula’s wrath and they resolve their differences; Drax befriends Mantis; the Guardians piss off Ayesha and the Sovereign some more.
The hero prepares to face the major challenge of the story Starlord discovers that he is a god. He then learns that Ego killed his mother and plans on taking over the universe.
This is where the hero faces their deciding challenge, confronting death or their greatest fear. Starlord chooses to use his god powers to resist Ego and save the universe.
The result of the hero’s survival of the ordeal. The ordeal is temporarily resolved but the hero is still not at peace yet. In this case, Starlord now knows Ego was indeed not to be trusted and he is reunited with his true family, the Guardians of the Galaxy who have arrived to aid him.
3. Annnnd… Ordinary World (Again)
The end of the story. This is where the main conflict is resolved and any loose ends are tied up.
- Road To The Ordinary World
Before the hero can fully return to the ordinary world, they must face a vengeful force. The Guardians must split up to fight the Sovereign and destroy Ego’s brain.
The main conflict is finally resolved and the hero emerges fundamentally changed. Yondu sacrifices himself to save Starlord from almost certain death. Starlord realizes that Yondu was his true father all along.
The results of the resolution – recognition, knowledge, peace… or literal treasure. Yondu’s sacrifice is recognised and he’s finally accepted by the Ravagers at his funeral.
*** For a brilliantly broken down infographic which uses Star Wars, the Matrix, Spider Man and the Lion King as examples of each of these points, click here.