The Hero’s Journey and the Storygrid Fifteen Core Scenes
In the Heroic Journey of the Hero’s Journey, Part 1, I redefined the phases and milestones of the Hero’s Journey to align them with the logic of real-life experiences.
For a recap, this is how we react to challenges/adversity:
- We ignore them as long as we can
- We apply a fix/workaround and live with that as long as we can
- We find a solution
The Hero’s Journey is a dramatized elaboration of this archetypal experience circle. These are the phases/events of the revised Hero’s Journey:
- The Ordinary World
- Rising of the Antagonism
- Call To Adventure
- Refusal of the Call
- Arrival of the Mentor/Herald
- Forced Call to Adventure
- Acceptance of the Call
- Formulation of the Want
- Crossing of the Threshold
- Test and Trials, Allies and Enemies
- Seizing the Tool
- First Stand-off with the Antagonism
- All-Is-Lost Moment
- Second and Final Stand-off
- Leveling Up
Here is a graphical representation of this cycle:
There are three blanks or blurs on that map:
- Test and Trials
- The section between Seizing the Tool and First Stand-off
- The Second Stand-off that occupies most of Act 3
How to fill these blanks? The Five Commandments of Storygrid help. These are:
- The Inciting Incident
- The Turning Point Progressive Complication
- The Crisis
- The Climax
- The Resolution
These five scenes should appear in the Beginning Hook (Act 1), Middle Build (Act 2), and Ending Payoff (Act 3). Together they form the spine of the story – the fifteen Storygrid core scenes.
To date, the Hero’s Journey and the Five Commandments are different writing/editing tools. Keeping them separate can cause issues for writers. It happened to me. I wrote my scenes, analyzed them according to the fifteen core scenes and rewrote some. Then, I analyzed my scenes according to the Hero’s Journey and re-shuffled and rewrote some more, and so on… You get the picture. A lot of rewriting.
This is the question: How can we align the Hero’s Journey and the Storygrid fifteen core scenes to create a story template?
Let’s have a look where the Hero’s Journey and the Fifteen Core scenes overlap:
Here is a graphical representation:
There are still blanks, but it is much clearer now with what to fill them, for example, a Climax scene in the Beginning Hook, an Inciting Incident and Crisis scene in the Middle Build, and a Crisis scene in the Ending Payoff.
In the Beginning Hook, most core scenes harmonize with the phases of the Hero’s Journey, except that the Hero’s Journey foresees no Climax. Most action stories/movies have a first battle with the antagonist as Climax.
The Crossing of the Threshold has three phases:
- Leaving the Ordinary World – the BH Resolution scene
- Crossing the threshold
- Arrival in the Extra-ordinary World
Warcraft and Hunger Games are a good example of showing three distinct phases of the crossing into the Extraordinary World.
The Arrival of the protagonist in the Extraordinary World mirrors the rise of the antagonist in the Ordinary World.
The arrival itself doesn’t make for an Inciting Incident, there needs to be some kind of impact that shakes up the Extra-ordinary World and/or the antagonist’s comfort zone.
Progressively complicating tests and trials take the protagonist to the Ordeal, which is the ultimate test/trial. During the Ordeal, the protagonist seizes the Tool (Want) with which he plans to overcome the antagonist. This marks the Turning Point of the Middle Build.
A Turning Point shall give rise to a Crisis but in this case, there is no real Crisis. The protagonist got his tool and is keen on facing the antagonism. The writer needs to suckle a Crisis out of his thumb.
The Climax of the Middle Build coincides with the First Stand-off with the antagonist and the All-is-lost moment serves as the Resolution of the Middle Build.
The Resurrection is the Inciting Incident of the Ending Payoff. The Resurrection can be as short as a flash of realization. For example, it could be the Turning Point in the Inciting Incident scene of the Ending Payoff.
In the case of Kung Fu Panda, Po resurrected during the All-Is-Lost moment. Po realized that he could use the Wuxi Finger Hold on himself and pull the antagonist with him into the Spirit World. The fight continues there, meaning the First Stand-off transforms into the Second Stand-off.
The Turning Point of the Ending Payoff comes right after the Inciting Incident. This is fine since the scenes of the Ending Payoff shall soar towards the Climax. No time for further complications.
There is no logical reason for having a Crisis in the Ending Payoff. It’s just for drama. The writer needs to suckle one out of his thumb. Some writers injected sacrifice crises there.
The Resolution of the Ending Payoff coincides with Leveling Up.
The Hero’s Journey and Twenty Core Scenes
Another way of dealing with the Middle Build is by dividing it in two. This gives us twenty core scenes:
Now, the first half of the Middle Build or second quarter of the story is almost as clear as the Beginning Hook. The Ordeal becomes the Climax and the Seizing of the Sword the Resolution – beautiful! All the writer needs to do now is finding a good Inciting Incident after the Crossing of the Threshold, a Turning Point that turns the tests and trials, and a dramatic Crisis.
This approach leaves the second half (third quarter) still gaping. The Inciting Incident, Turning Point and Crisis scenes of the third quarter help to make decisions on what to write. One way to fill the void is giving the reader a break from the action of the second quarter of the story and entertain them with the secondary genre or the internal content genre while stirring the embers of the First Stand-off with the antagonist. Some action movies cut to the chase and jump from Seizing the Sword to the First Stand-off. Last but not least, the writer can add some of Campbell’s more mystical phases, like the atonement with the father.
If you have any ideas for filling the third quarter of the story, please comment below!
More information on Storygrid: www.storygrid.com