The Hero's Journey

A Primer For Freelance Writers To Tell Better Stories

9 mins read

When you know how to tell stories and how to hold attention, it can make you a better freelance writer.

The Hero’s Journey is a great storytelling framework that should be a part of your writing arsenal so you can master the art of writing for an audience. While you will not always use this framework, there are elements of it you can sprinkle into your writing to make it even stronger.

It is one thing just to write for clients and churn out good, high-quality content, but knowing what holds the attention of readers and inspires them to stay hooked on every word will keep your career alive for a long time.

In this article, we will be diving into what The Hero’s Journey is, the basics you need to know, how you can use it in your overall writing, and a brief primer on some other storytelling frameworks you can use if you want to break outside of this method.

The Hero’s Journey

Why Does Storytelling Matter?

Storytelling is an essential part of human communication and connection. No matter how much SEO and other marketing tools out there continue to take presence, the heart of good writing will always revolve around stories we read and share.

Storytelling allows us to convey complex ideas, emotions, and experiences in a relatable and engaging manner, making information more accessible and memorable.

Through stories, we can empathize with characters, share wisdom, pass down traditions, and inspire change, fostering a sense of unity and understanding among individuals and communities.

Depending on the type of writing you do, you can also use it to create fascinating ads, compelling blog posts, and shareable social media posts.

There are few downsides to learning the basics of storytelling so you can bring it into your writing. It is often something you will have to practice on your own so you can improve your skills in this area. It can also help to read fascinating and famous stories that use various methods so you can understand how they work.

Why Should Freelance Writers Know How To Tell Stories?

It is no secret that making it as a freelance writer is not always a walk in the park. When you are a freelance writer, you are battling thousands of other writers out there for a chance to make it.

While there is an abundance of work to be passed around, there is still something to be said for having tools at your disposal to make you a better freelance writers than other writers out there.

One of those tools is being able to tell stories that captivate and holds readers attention. One of the great storytelling frameworks is The Hero’s Journey. While you might not be able to tell the whole journey in everything you write, the summary you mainly need to know is that everyone loves a hero’s victory story.

That could even translate to you telling the story of a local business in your area and the business owner’s challenges as they had to get their business growing.

The Hero’s Journey is simply a framework for you to use to be able to tell a captivating story, and it is one we have used all throughout history to tell important stories over and over.

What Is The Hero’s Journey?

The Hero’s Journey is a narrative framework and storytelling pattern that was popularized by Joseph Campbell, a scholar of mythology and comparative religion, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces which was originally published in 1949.

Campbell’s work explored common themes and structures in myths, legends, and religious stories from various cultures around the world.

What Are The Steps In The Hero’s Journey?

If you want the detailed version of this journey, you will want to read his book that is mentioned above. It is a much longer approach and analyzation of each of the steps along the path.

Here is the short summary of The Hero’s Journey path:

  • The Ordinary World: The hero begins in a familiar and ordinary environment, which may be mundane or even oppressive.
  • Call to Adventure: Something disrupts the hero’s ordinary life and presents a challenge or opportunity. This is the initial call to action that sets the hero on a new path.
  • Refusal of the Call: The hero may initially resist the call to adventure, often due to fear, doubt, or a sense of inadequacy.
  • Meeting the Mentor: The hero encounters a mentor or guide who provides advice, training, or supernatural assistance to help them on their journey.
  • Crossing the Threshold: The hero decides to leave the ordinary world and enters a new, unknown, and often dangerous realm.
  • Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero faces a series of trials, meets allies and enemies, and undergoes personal growth and transformation.
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero approaches a central challenge, often a symbol of their ultimate goal or the villain they must confront.
  • Ordeal: The hero faces a major obstacle or battle, which is a critical and often life-threatening test.
  • Reward (Seizing the Sword): After overcoming the ordeal, the hero reaps a reward, which may be a physical object, knowledge, or personal growth.
  • The Road Back: The hero begins the journey back to the ordinary world, often facing new challenges or pursuing the final confrontation with the antagonist.
  • Resurrection: The hero faces a final, often life-or-death, ordeal that represents the climax of the story. This can involve a confrontation with the main antagonist.
  • Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to the ordinary world with the knowledge, experience, or object gained during the journey, which can bring transformation and positive change to their life or community.

Examples of The Hero’s Journey

We will not spend too much time diving into these stories and explaining what they are about, because that could be a whole article in and of itself. However, here are a few stories that embody The Hero’s Journey storytelling formula:

  • The Lord Of The Rings
  • Harry Potter
  • The Lion King
  • The Matrix
  • The Odyssey

Writing The Anti-Hero’s Journey

An alternative take to The Hero’s Journey is to create the Anti-Hero’s Journey. There is not a particular framework to follow here, but if you have found that The Hero’s Journey is old, tired, and done too many times already you could challenge yourself to create the opposite story.

What about the story of someone who did all the wrong steps along the way? Who didn’t follow the traditional path? What about someone who failed along the way and never recovered?

There are a few different angles you could choose to take if you want to rebel against this type of framework.

Other Storytelling Frameworks

Other storytelling frameworks all writers should know:

  • The Story Cycle framework
  • The 3-act structure framework
  • The Pixar framework
  • The StoryBrand framework

Ready To Become A Freelance Writer?

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