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  1. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    A hero's journey.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Francis de Aguilar, Oct 28, 2017.

    Does anyone follow the classic 12 stage model?
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Not me - I don't do templates, I just write the story
     
  3. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    Hell no. It's the content of the story that matters, not "structure."
     
  4. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    Nope. Predefined structures just add an unnecessary layer of confusion to an already-complex project, as far as I'm concerned. I think I've read enough fiction to have a pretty good bone-deep understanding of how it works, so I approach storytelling the way a jazz musician improvises. Writing is mucher funner that way! :p

    Side note: I've read probably hundreds of interviews with professional writers, usually ones who have achieved widespread fame and recognition for the quality of their work. Among them are a whole slew of Nobel Prize winners, Man Booker prize winners, Pulitzer prize winners, etc. I have never once come across any who claim to use predefined structures in their work. Nobody I can recall has said, "I always use standard three-act structure" or "I use the classic twelve-stage model" or anything like that. Sure, maybe when their work is done, story analysts can detect such structures in the work, but it seems to occur naturally, without the author even being aware of it. These writers know bone-deep how stories work, so they trust their instincts. If a structure appears in the finished work, fine. If not, who cares?
     
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  5. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    But it's an archetype isn't it. Not so much a template, more of an analysis of ancient myth and story telling.
     
  6. Bill Chester

    Bill Chester Active Member

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    For those of us who don't know, even skin-deep how stories work, some form of structure at least allows us to move from beginning to end. I gave up pantsing after realizing that all I had produced was a series of events.
     
  7. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    A terrible one (note the special pleading used by advocates when stories don't comport to the Hero's Journey, e.g. the Iliad).
     
  8. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    I kind of like what E.M. Forster said about this subject. (I'm paraphrasing): "A story is a sequence of events. A plot is a sequence of events linked by cause and effect. The King died and then the Queen died is a story. The King died and then the Queen died of grief is a plot."

    Did you read much when you were a kid? If you did, you probably know more about stories than you're giving yourself credit for. Trust yourself. What you call a "series of events" might be fascinating to other people. :)
     
  9. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I actually read a lot of Joseph Campbell's work on The Hero's Journey. It's interesting. I certainly don't follow templates or use structures to write stories, but I find that the more informed I am on how stories work, the better I can craft a story myself. I just consume as much information as possible and my subconscious mind uses it while I write. I don't see the point in not consuming this type of literature. All that happens is I wind up better informed and able to do what I do better. Obviously, this approach doesn't work for everyone, but I've found a decent little process by mashing up and combining all kinds of processes into something that works for me. I gain knowledge about as much as I can, and maintain fidelity to none of them. I only use what suits me. Sometimes The Hero's Journey helps me get through a block; sometimes it doesn't.

    Another one that I really enjoyed is The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. He was a Campbell disciple.
     
  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    If you're trying to pump out a story where getting it done is more important than getting it done well, following the Hero's Journey or Micheal Hauge's derivative Six Stage Plot Structure can help a lot. It means basically all you have to do is come up with a premise, then fill in a pile of blanks and then you're basically left with a framework to build a novel on. It'll be a formulaic novel, but a novel, nonetheless. If you've got a story that you're really putting a lot of work into, I wouldn't suggest doing it that way, but keeping the Hero's Journey in mind could be helpful if you're stuck and don't know where to go next, or if something just doesn't quite fit and you can't figure out why. As @minstrel said, though, most great writers seemed to have followed this pattern by using their instinct, so your writers instinct is probably more important than some stuffy old dead dude's ideas on how plot structure is supposed to work.
     
  11. IDontDrinkKoolaid

    IDontDrinkKoolaid Member

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    Here's the thing I think people fundamentally get wrong about this: these "plot stage" lists are the result of people analysing a lot of works and coming up with similarities; they are an investigative tool. They're not meant to be used as guidelines, and I don't know where people got that from. They're historical guides which might help us understand how people felt about some thing or other during the times the works were written.

    Look at "the hero with a thousand faces", for instance. The point of this book wasn't to say "this is how you write stories", the point was to say "these religious and spiritually connected tales have this and this in common, and from that we can derive so and so", and that's it, and that is what it is.

    Who's the person peddling these as writing templates? I honestly don't get how people fall for it.
     
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  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    They work as writing templates because if all great stories have these elements in a particular order, then chances are if you write a story with those same elements in that same order, you're going to have a pretty decent story yourself. It's like noticing that throughout history all houses have been built by putting down a foundation, then walls and then a roof. To look at that and say, "Hmm, this is just a historical analysis, when I build my house, I'm going to start with the roof then forget about the walls, etc..." If you were Santiago Calatrava you might get away with it, but chances are we're not him. Point is, using these as writing templates work. Dan Harmon of Community and Rick and Morty fame is a huge proponent of using The Hero's Journey and he's had far more success as a writer than I'm assuming most of us have.
     
  13. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    I didn't know what this was initially, but I looked it up and I must say I'm a bit confused as to why anyone would follow a model like this. I don't understand why someone would want to follow someone else's idea of how the story should go. Am I missing something...?
     
  14. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    Yes
    Yes, you are.
     
  15. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    It's not really someone else's idea of how a story should go, it's more like everyone else's idea of how a story should go. Pick up any story from pretty much any human culture and chances are it follows this story structure. That was pretty much how Joseph Campbell came up on it. He was a Theologian with an interest in Native American folklore and noticed certain similarities in story structures between both cultures. He then formed a theory and compared it to stories in other cultures and found that they also followed most, if not all of the story structure he decided to call the Monomyth. Chances are if you look back on some stories you've already written you'll find they already follow a similar structure just because this is how we as humans most enjoy hearing and telling stories.
     
  16. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'm finding it hard to reconcile these two posts... "using these as writing templates works" and "your writer's instinct is probably more important than some stuffy old dead dude's ideas on how plot structure is supposed to work" don't seem to go together. From the first post I got the impression that you thought using story templates wouldn't produce a good result, but then I assume you're holding Dan Harmon up as an example of someone who does good work using story templates, so...?
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
  17. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    Many, even most, successful people don't understand the reasons for their success.
     
  18. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    The same reason most builders follow the same code when building a house.

    -

    I am probably one of the most pro-structure guys on this site. Lord of The Rings is one of the best books you can study if you want to see a story written with tight story structure. It is better to treat Story Structure like how musicians treat music. You can't just jam X amount of notes into a song and hope for the best. There is music theory that guides a musician as he creates his music.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
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  19. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Sorry, dont' mean to be confusing. Yes, I believe that using story structures work, but they're only a framework for a story. Joseph Campbell originally had 17 plot points that he felt most stories went through, some more crucial than others, but he also admitted that not all stories went through all of these points. So, yes, story structures work, but we still have to be flexible when it comes to our stories instead of trying to follow a by rote diagram of how someone else thinks we should write these stories. So being overly reliant on using The Hero's Journey as a writing tool can be bad, but so can forgoing it altogether. It's a good thing to have a solid understanding of, but is not something that should be used as a crutch.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
  20. IDontDrinkKoolaid

    IDontDrinkKoolaid Member

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    The difference between a story and a house is a fairly large one. A house that falls down, falls down; a story is only bad if you think it's bad. They may work as writing templates for you, but that doesn't mean that they hold up for others. I don't think I need to tell you how different the fundamentals, standards and common symbols of visual arts (painting and drawing), were from nation to nation before the rise of modern communication. You're right, the structure might give you a story that you enjoy, I'm not arguing that; what I am arguing, however, is that that is merely a byproduct of being constantly subjected to the idea of that structure, and seeing it mirrored in works you like gives it a positive connotation. Of course, the structural idea is so vague that it's easy to stretch it over any story you like.

    Again, Campbell didn't intend to create a template, it was a historical, philosophical and psychological analysis and nothing more.
     
  21. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Would you also say that most unsuccessful people don't know the reasons for their lack of success?

    It seems like we're going to have a pretty hard time figuring anything out, if nobody really knows what works for them or what doesn't...
     
  22. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Just because he didn't intend it to be used as a template, that doesn't mean it doesn't work ridiculously well as one.
     
  23. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    Ah, I see. That makes much more sense than what I originally thought :p
     
  24. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    Yes, but the problem isn't as bad. Those people are at least aware that something's lacking...

    In biology, cognition, society, there is almost never straightforward cause-and-effect. A simple effect might be caused by a dozen interlocking causes that no one ever took notice of, or an incredibly complicated phenomenon might be stopped in its tracks by a single variable.
     
  25. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    I like using them as a proofing tool. Write the story as it comes to me, and then see if it fits well into an appropriate, common structure. I find that doing so helps with pacing and generally making the story feel cohesive.
     

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