In keeping with my fascination with the story template originating with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero Has a Thousand faces, I’ve decided to do a multiple post series focusing on each of the steps in the Hero’s Journey.
The steps are;
- Ordinary World
- Call to adventure
- Refusal of the call
- First Threshold
- Tests, Allies, Enemies
- Approach to inmost cave
- The road back
- Return with the elixir
Today I will be focusing on the first step in the journey, the Ordinary World.
Of all the steps, this one should be the straightest forward.
The Ordinary world is our hero’s starting point. Since the point of the Hero’s Journey is to show growth and development, we need a point of reference. Who is your hero? What is his life like before the journey begins?
In Star Wars, we meet Luke Skywalker as a whiny farm boy who dreams of bigger things.
In Harry Potter, we meet a mistreated boy who is awkward and has no apparent powers.
In How to Train Your Dragon, the main character Hiccup is introduced as the village joke who just wants to fit in.
While this may be the straightest ahead, it is fraught with disaster.
- This is the introduction to your hero. The reader needs to learn who he is. It is especially important to show those qualities that will change over the course of the story so your reader will see his growth. On top of all that, you need to make him interesting and worthy of your readers’ sympathy.
- You need the opening to be engaging enough that it captures the reader and carries them forward. How do you make the hero’s ordinary world interesting? It’s easy to focus on what amazing adventures await, but your reader will never get there if the ordinary world is too boring.
- If you intend for your hero to return, it means you need to know how the hero’s journey will ultimately affect the ordinary world. Will things improve? Will it cause the world’s destruction, or just destroy the world’s way of life?
In short, the ordinary world is the foundation of your story. Everything that comes after is dependent upon the ground rules established there.
The next step in the Hero’s Journey is The Call to Adventure.