THE WRITER’S JOURNEY is all about the great monomyth of western culture, known as the Hero’s Journey. The best-known example is Star Wars. George Lucas borrowed heavily from Joseph Campbell’s book, THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. Campbell, in turn, borrowed from the unwritten assumptions of our culture, finding the universal storytelling rules we all unconsciously follow. Vogler has taken a more practical approach to Campbell’s work, laying things out for his fellow writers in an accessible way. THE WRITER’S JOURNEY shows exactly how a Hero’s Journey story goes together, and what scenes your book or screenplay needs to make a cohesive storyline.
THE WRITER’S JOURNEY is divided into two parts: character and plot. Vogler starts by examining the universal character types that stories have, from the hero and his mentor to the trickster, the guardian, the shadow, and other well-known types. He then shows how these characters move through the plot, outlining the hero’s journey from the ordinary world to the world of adventure and back again.
Some writers complain that THE WRITERS JOURNEY teaches a formula, and that by using it, your books will be shallow. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason the great monomyth has persisted throughout the years is because of its endless variations. In fact, it wasn’t until I read Vogler’s examples that I realized how much the movies Dances with Wolves and Sister Act have in common. The storylines couldn’t be more different, but the underlying framework is the same. Both movies feel fresh, and very different from each other, despite the well-worn structure.
My one disagreement with Vogler is that not every single story fits into the Hero’s Journey template. He says they do, but some of his examples seem like a stretch. I prefer Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT, where the Hero’s Journey is just one of many ways to tell a story. That said, I can’t fault Vogler for seeing the Hero’s Journey everywhere. It’s a satisfying method of storytelling that resonates on a deep, human level. I like this book a lot, and reading it prepared me to take a writer’s journey of my own.
[note: I have all three versions of THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, but the 2nd edition is the best one. Each edition became more detailed, and by the 3rd edition, Vogler got bogged down in examples and digressions, losing the forest amongst the trees. But the 2nd edition is just the right length. It’s got enough explanations to be clear, but not so many that you miss the point. It’s out of print, but used versions of the 2nd edition are cheap and easy to find.]
rating: 5 stars
pie slices: 8 slices craft
This book is best for: intermediate to advanced writers
I recommend this book