TAP027, How to Structure a Story Using the Hero’s Journey (Part 3 of 4)
So, you’ve fleshed out your story idea for the first and second act using the Hero’s Journey, and your story has reached the cusp between the second and third act. And, now, you’re wondering, how to structure the final act of your story using the Hero’s Journey. If this is a situation that you can relate to, then this episode is for you.
TAP027, How to Structure a Story Using the Hero's Journey (Part 3 of 4)
What to Expect from this Episode
In this show, I will unpack the final three stages of the Hero’s Journey. Just as a word of warning, I will also be sharing scenes from the film, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the ring. It goes without saying, spoiler alert.
As I wrote, what I was hoping to be the final instalment in this series, the word count reached 3,700 words which meant the show would reach almost 28 minutes. That length is well above the short length that I promised you in the earlier podcast episodes. I’ve decided to break this final episode into two parts and by default turning this mini-series into four parts. The next part of this series, episode twenty-eight will be released on Monday, April 8. And, the usual behind the Scenes Podcast Diary will be released the following Saturday, April 13.
A Podcast Update
Over the next few weeks, you will notice a few changes in The Authorpreneur Podcast. The first is this episode is the second last show on plot and story structure for season one. Between season one and two, there will be weekly Behind the Scenes podcast Diary episodes. In season two the diary episodes will continue on in a weekly schedule.
On Monday, July 1 the first show of season two will be released. Season two will have a focus on how to outline, and in this season I will break down the components of a story. Closer to the start of season two, I will release an episode that breaks down exactly what you can expect from this second season, in greater detail. To be honest, I’m glad to get a break from the research, write, edit, and record cycle and focus on the new chat style format of the Behind the Scenes Podcast Diary. A lot of effort goes into creating a show like the one you are currently listening to, right now, but, I digress.
Just like three-act-structure, the third act of the Hero’s Journey covers the final twenty-five percent of the story. The entire third act takes the protagonist from the Special World back to the Ordinary World. In essence, this act brings the story, full circle. Every stage along the Hero’s Journey is not necessarily one scene but quite often can cover many scenes, as you’ll see in the examples that I share with you.
The Road Back
At the beginning of act three, the hero embarks on the final part of the journey home. This story moment is a reverse echo of the Call to Adventure scenes from the first act. Everything is looking good for the Protagonist at first, but then, things start to fall apart. And, the hero soon realises that he has further to go than he initially thought, the return home is a path riddled with dangers. These dangers are the consequences of the events that occurred in the second act, and the protagonist can not avoid these obstacles if he wishes to return home.
He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Before the Hero can return home, he must commit to the last stage of the journey and the apparent obstacles that lay before him. Just like you and I, our Hero has an innate desire to avoid pain at all costs, but something must encourage him to commit. On the cusp of deciding to return home, the Hero has a moment where he must choose between his objective and a higher cause. One question should linger in your reader’s mind during this story moment. Will the hero sacrifice his own goals over this higher and more important cause?
So, let’s look at an example of The Road Back scenes from the Fellowship of the Ring.
An Example from the Fellowship of the Ring:
The roadblock has this feeling of sadness lingering in the air and is full of dangers. To be more precise it’s not a roadblock but instead a long journey ahead. Aragorn leads the fellowship into the woods of Lothlorien. The fellowship is caught in the woods by the Elves who were alerted by their presence because the fuss Gimli was making. It’s here that we see a bit more of the dwarf versus elf rivalry.
As the elves sing a lament for Gandalf, Boromir starts to mend the bridge between him and Aragorn and shares his fears of the fall of Gondor after Galadriel tells him that there is still hope. Galadriel the sorceress of the woods as she is so eloquently named by Gimli shows Frodo what will happen if he fails to destroy the one ring. She warns him that the ring will corrupt the other members of the fellowship. Frodo offers her the ring. The lady of the wood resists the temptations and passes the test. Frodo resists her warning stating that he doesn’t want to go on the journey alone, but Galadriel reminds him that if he doesn’t find a way no one will. Upon their departure, Galadriel gives Frodo the light of Earnedil promising that it will be a light to him in dark places.
These resurrection scenes are the true climax of the story and contain one final, but nonetheless, significant test for the hero as the villain seizes one last chance to triumph. It’s here that our hero has a most dangerous encounter with death and reaches the realisation that this higher cause greater than the hero’s existence and his objectives. The final battle’s outcome has profound consequences to the hero’s world and the lives of those he has left behind, to embark upon this quest. Thus, the stakes are raised even higher.
On the forefront of the hero’s mind is the reality that if he fails, the people he loves will suffer. Our hero now has a powerful motive to keep going despite the odds of success. At this moment the reader should feel a part of the conflict and share the hero hopes and fears. But there’s good news for the hero. He finally has a moment of victory and saves his loved ones from harm, and at last, finds acceptance for his new sense of self.
So, let’s look at an example of the Resurrection scenes from the Fellowship of the Ring.
An Example from the Fellowship of the Ring:
The climax of the first movie is the fellowship’s final fight with Saruman’s armies. But moments before this fight, Boromir is finally seduced by the power of the ring. At first, he offers to share the burden with Frodo. His intentions seem to come from a place of kindness at first but as Frodo insists on bearing the ring, so does Boromir attempts to persuade him. Boromir tries to take the ring, but Frodo puts the ring on and escapes. Eventually, he snaps out of the rings seductive power and realises that he attempted to steal the ring from Frodo. At this moment, we see that Boromir is disappointed in himself.
Aragorn finds Frodo who has wandered into the woods. Frodo offers him the ring. Even though Aragorn feels the temptation, he doesn’t take the ring. But, he understands that Frodo must go alone to Mordor. The orc army finds Aragorn at the top of the hill, and the battle begins as Frodo tries to escape, and find his way to Mordor.
Merry and Pippin help Frodo escape by creating a diversion but end up captured by orcs. However, Boromir tries to save them but ends up getting overpowered by the battle and calls for help. Unfortunately, Aragorn arrives just in time to see Boromir struck down.
It’s in this moment that Boromir confesses his disappointment at his attempt to take the ring from Frodo. As he draws his last breath, he has a moment of despair for Gondor believing it will fall, but Aragorn promises that he will not let the city fall. Just before he dies, Boromir acknowledges Aragorn as the rightful king of Gondor. This scene is another one of those moments that makes me cry every time I watch these movies.
Return with the Elixir
Finally, the hero gets to return home. But the hero returns a different person; he has grown and matured as a part of the journey. Depending upon the tone you want to set the return home is often marked with a moment where he saves those he has left behind, a moment of self-realisation, or even a simple moment of celebration. As a result, his allies are rewarded, and enemies will be punished, and those who doubted the hero will be proven wrong. Our Hero returns to where he started out but soon realises that his life never be the same again. He cannot go on as he once did.
So, let’s look at an example of the Return with the Elixir scenes from the Fellowship of the Ring.
An Example from the Fellowship of the Ring:
At the end of the battle, we see lasting bonds of friendship. Sam who feels bound to Frodo through the promise he made to Gandalf, forces his way onto the boat to accompany Frodo to Mordor. In an attempt to do this, Sam risks drowning because he can’t swim.
Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas decide to follow the orcs and rescue Merry and Pippin. And, you see no hint of the rivalry between Gimli and Legolas that existed when the first met at the secret council. Each character has grown in some way. Aragorn appears to be a step closer to accepting his true path in life.
The three stages of the Hero’s Journey that occur in act three are The Road Back, Resurrection, and Return with the Elixir. I want you to continue to read the novel or watch the film that you choose in the previous two episodes that follow this story structure. As you watch or read, see if you notice the final stages of the Hero’s Journey in the third act. Create a spreadsheet or open up a note-taking app, and record these stages, and takes notes based upon what happens in these scenes. Analysing other stories will help you to become a better writer. Now, I want to hear from you. Let me know how you got on with activity by sharing in the comments section below.
In next show, I will share five tips on how to structure a story using the Hero’s Journey, share examples of this story structure in film and literature, and share a list of books for those of you who want to learn more about the Hero’s Journey.
Thanks for listening, and happy reading and writing, everybody.
I’m Amelia. I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Missing, the first book in the James Lalonde series. On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process. Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.