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Table of Contents

The Writer and the Hero's Journey Foreword Introduction Module One:The Hero's Mindset

Exercises 1

Module Two: Emergence

Exercises 2 Module Three: Road of Trials Exercises 3

Module Four: Master of Worlds Exercises 4

Conclusion: A Call to Action

Review This Book Rob Parnell’s Writing Resources Connect With Rob Parnell

True wisdom islesspresuming. The wiseman doubts often andchanges his mind; the fool is obstinate, anddoubts not, he knowsall things but his own




**Wemust be willing togetrid of the life we'veplanned, so as to have the life

thatis waiting for us. "

Joseph Campbell

This book is aimed primarily at writers - or would-be writers - who

want a better understanding of ideal story structure. It is meant for the

seasoned professional as much as for the beginner. It is also directed

towards people who seek a fuller appreciation of the purpose of life in

general. All of us ask at some point. Why are we here, what's itall for ell,

the fact is, we're engaged in our own personal hero's journey - writers,

perhaps, more than most,

If there's any particular purpose to our lives it is most likely to fully participate in the majesty of existence and, most importantly, to grow and

change for the better as human beings. Of course, we do this in large and

small ways throughout the course of our lives. We do it by making decisions daily and by moving towards our short and long derm objectives; by setting goals and reaching beyond our capabilities. If we are not tested by life and circumstance, we must often resort to testing ourselves,

through intention and the use of our ambitious nature. But not is some idle

way. It is our duty to push ourselves, to change who we are on a regular

basis; to create new realities for ourselves and others and thereby co-create

the evolving universe,

If you're lacking a sense of purpose, or don't see the connections

between the seemingly random elements in youx existence, then this book may teach you to better understand life's lessons and gain some sense of

symmetry and meaning from recognizing patterns, I hope this knowledge,

too, will dramatically enhance your skill as a writer,

There are four distinct threads in this book:

  • 1. The hero!s journey asitpertains to fiction writing

When it comes to structuring timeless stories, the hero's journey is

widely accepted as the ideal template for a fictional construct. The hero's

journey, according to many sources, is a structure that is implicit in our

makeup - and has therefore become interwoven into the fabric of our

storytelling since the invention of writing. When we read about fictional

characters, it's human nature to want to see them overcome obstacles to

their growth. Whether that's by taming a monster, finding true love or by

defeating inner demons, the hero's journey provides an ideal template on

which to drape a character's progress throughout a story,

2, The hero rs journey as it relates to writers

To me, the serious writer is folly engaged in a hero's journey: leaving

the ordinary world behind to venture forth on a mission, a journey of self-

discovery, The would-be writer must learn the craft, and get used to a

whole new way of looking at the world, only to be tested, exposed to

criticism, rejection, praise, adulation and fans and a new kind of self-

awareness, When we navigate the 'slings and arrows of outrageous

fortune', we hopefully emerge triumphant, reborn as successful writers, as

artists to whom the world becomes a place of creativity and renewed relevance. Over the course of this book, I will draw parallels between the hero's journey and the road that many great writers have taken from beginner to successful artist,

3 , The hero !sjo urney as illustrated by the MajorA rcana of the Taro t

I've had an abiding interest in the Tarot since I discovered it during my twenties, back when I was young enough to be curious about divination and precognition. These days I'm not so interested in the parapyschological aspect of the Tarot, but rather the more fundamental ideas behind the Tarot: that it is somehow a microcosm of all the

influences we may experience as a person on Earth, From a purely pleasurable point of view, I'm very fond of studying the archetypal images within the pictographs - and their myriad interpretations. But also, I

believe that a great way of coming up with new and original stories is to simply shuffle a Tarot pack, deal out some random cards and let your

imagination do the rest. In case you're concerned, it's not necessary to have

a n y p rior kn owledge of th e Ta rot to rea d th is b ook, I do all th e work for y ou,

But if my observations inspire you, feel free to purchase any Tarot pack you

please,if only to enjoy looking at the pictures!

4, The hero's journey as personified by my own quest to become a professional writer

I make no apology for including a little of my own memoir in this

book. Over the last ten years my students have made one thing very plain

to me at every turn: they want to know more about how I became a

successful writer. Personally I'm hard-pressed to see the fascination,

However, I do understand that most new writers need a roadmap when it

comes to planning their creative careers. The transition from cocooned










metamorphosis at first. The courage to say to yourself and the world, "lam

a writer"can be fraught with self-doubt and hesitancy. My own story may

help show, in

practical terms, what is meant by


of the more

philosophical notions I express later in this book,

My overall hope is that this combination of the above four 'threads'

will help you gain a complete understanding of the creative artist's

worldview. At the very least this book will enable you to see the sense of

using the hero's journey template as a great framework on which to hang

your story ideas, I also hope that you will fully understand the hero's

journey as a concept. Not just as a whimsical structure for a story template

but as something more fundamental: a metaphor for the artist's life: the

journey from neophyte to master, from newbie to professional writer,

In case you don't know me, let me introduce myself I've been an

online writing teacher for over a decade now. In that time I've produced

over thirty courses on fiction and nonfiction writing, half a dozen novels and quite a few short stories. Oh, and about five hundred articles. At the same time as I've taught well over a million students, I've also found time

to carve out a professional writing career that, much to the surprise of my

wife, also a writer, has enabled us to enjoy a comfortable living as full-time independent authors. When we're not writing, my wife and I travel the

globe speaking at seminars, workshops and other international venues, We both love writing with a passion, not just as a platform for telling

stories, factual and fictional, but also as a self-actualization tool - one that can take anyone from a humdrum existence into a new level of awareness and joy as a creative artist,

Nottosoundtoonewageab out it, I believe t h at as we ventire into t h e

third millennium, we are entering a new level of consciousness - if not that

then at least a new direction for humanity. To most of us, the drudgery of

the Industrial Revolution is but a distant memory. While modern 'work-

ethic' practitioners still bang on about how we might gain purpose and

meaning inside corporate structures, I believe we were meant for much

more than this. Human beings are surely not designed to be content to merely work for a living,

The prominent American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, developed a pyramidal hierarchy that predicts the true goal of humans, after safety,

security, love, self-esteem and material

comfort, is self-actualization , a

nebulous term that means, specifically, the development of our innate

creativity, the ability to act spontaneously, solve problems, lack prejudice

and to understand and appreciate the truth when we hear it.

To me, this suggests that we should all gravitate towards being self-

sufficient and creative. We must all, perhaps at some stage in the near

future, aspire to become artists - either figuratively or literally. My teaching

has this idea at its heart. That, after absorbing instruction on how to become a better writer, we should aspire to become mini-gods, true masters of our worlds, because that is our fundamental purpose. We must not fear independence of thought, nor the loss of structured income generation. Because true self-determination is not just about being

uncompromising, it's about taking responsibility for one's own life, one's actions and thereby one's destiny. In other words, we were born to

experience the hero's journey. And not just once, but many times over, in

order to achieve full enlightenment, absolute freedom and true peace. And

from this self-actualized position we may be in a better place to write

stories that could change the world. Okay, this may sound utterly

grandiose and largely impractical to you right now. But it is my earnest

hope that this book goes some small way to helping you see the world - and

your place within it - a little differently.

Finally, I want this book to inspire you to take the next step in your

own hero's journey - at whatever stage you've reached. Whether you're a complete novice who has never written a thing, or a writer on your first

steps toward publication, or a professional on the edge of a new project, I

sincerely hope you willfind this book useful - oh, and fun to read!

Keep Writing,

Rob Parnell

The Easy Way to Write

Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter and receive news about my

writing resources at www, easy wayto write, com


"We have to do the best wecan , Thisisoursacredhuman responsibility , "

Albert Einstein

Imagine the hero's journey as an old-fashioned clock-face,

At twelve o'clock our journey begins, We are at home, safe in our most

familiar environment. Yet we are dissatisfied. As the first hour passes, we

feel a calling to explore the world and perhaps venture out of our comfort

zone to seek answers or find purpose. If not, circumstances may prevail to

force that change upon us,

At three






of tests that challenge our

preconceptions and lead us on a quest to find solutions, meaning and

direction. We may find new friends or discover enemies along the way,

At six, our world looks a very different place. In our quest to do the

right thing, as in overcome our obstacles on the path to truth, the tests are

harder, more intense. We delve into a symbolic labyrinth, where we confront our deepest fears; and where our own sense of identity may be

challenged. As the clock turns, metaphorically we go deeper into the

mystery oflife, so much so that we are almost dazed and confused by what

we're experiencing,

At nine, we are tested beyond endurance and will eventually be forced

to sacrifice ourselves to uphold our values. But this is in no way a defeat. It

is a recognition of our innate courage and determination to persevere with

our aims, no matter what, A symbolic death occurs, relieving our old personality, to be replaced by another, wiser self. Consequently we are

reborn, we regain hope and acquire new insight and wisdom. We are stronger and perhaps have a message we may now use to help the world

seethe important issues of life more clearly,

At this crucial stage, when we realize we have taken responsibility for

our lives and can from this moment hold ourselves accountable, we realize that our actions, however taxing, have brought us enlightenment. We have rediscovered ourselves but gained a new perspective when we return

to twelve o'clock and understand that our lives are forever changed for the


The above corresponds roughly to what has become the classic model




journey but



to some

extent, my

own personal

interpretation, I have taken some fairly strong liberties in this regard - and

rejected many of the more bizarre elements suggested by some scholars, I've done this so that the writer of short stories, novels and screenplays can absorb the ideas that are the most helpful to creativity - and discard those that are irrelevant to the needs of the modern storyteller,

The Birth of the Hero'sJourney Idea

During the early part of the twentieth century, psychoanalysis was a

burgeoning new science. It could be argued that society at the time was

looking fora greater understanding of personal identity: what is meant by

being human. It was a world that had begun to reject the idea of being

solely answerable to a third-party god. Intellectual thought was leaning

towards personal responsibility for ourselves as god-like individuals. In 1878, the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, announced the death of the Christian god in his book, Human, All Too Human , In later books,

Nietzsche preached the necessity of improving ourselves as people - to literally aspire to become Super-Men (and presumably Super-Women,)

At the same time, there was speculation as to the role of sex in regards

to personality. Serious consideration was given to the idea that psychoses

originated from repressed sexual desires and fetishes. In retrospect, this

may have simply been a reaction to the prudery of Victorian values, a time

when our animalistic nature was sublimated in favor of our apparently

more civilized purpose. Against this backdrop, Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, a







aimed to








storehouse of repressed thoughts


emotions that, Freud suggested, psychoanalysis could uncover in an

attempt to cure mental instability. The Swiss doctor, Carl Jung, took these ideas further to posit that the human mind was ideally suited to individuation - by which he meant that people could integrate their conscious and unconscious selves to help them transcend their base natures and bring about more rounded, civilized individuals. The practice

of psychiatry was thus born,

Jimg also developed the idea of archetypes and the collective

unconscious. He believed that far from being a mass of individual minds,

humanity was actually connected on some deep subconscious Level and

this explained, why we tend to share the same concepts of good, evil,

wrong, right and why certain archetypal characters exist within everyone's minds. He suggested that archetypes like the 'wise old man', the 'goddess', the 'trickster' and of course the 'hero' are common to every and all cultures - and have been since the beginning of time. Not only were they mental constructs, or images, he suggested later in his life, but perhaps

they were also representations of fundamental principles inherent in the

natural world, hence their power and conspicuous commonality,

Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, was no doubt influenced

by these ideas when he suggested that, in essence., there was just one major

story - referred to as the 'Monomyth' - that had been told over and over

since the inception of writing. And that story - which he called the hero's

journey - was basically about personal transformation through initiation

and a symbolic death, Campbell identified the hero's journey in numerous

ancient fables and in the plays of the Greeks and Romans, His life's work

cites copious evidence that peoples and religions seem to recognize common mythologies and archetypes - and indeed, end up writing substantially similar stories,

Campbell produced a book, released in 1949, called The Hero with a

ThousandFaces, in which he described the 'template' for the hero's journey

in mythology - and showed how stories since the beginning of

consciousness contained elements strikingly similar to each other. So much so that the telling of the 'hero's journey' in story form might be




necessary kind



ceremony' that


metaphorically undertake to seek and obtain wisdom,

Underworld Myths

Around three thousand years ago in ancient Greece and Italy, stories

about people visiting the underworld were common - and until recently

regarded as

myths or garbled fables. However, twenty-first century

archeology has uncovered subterranean sites in Italy and on Greek islands

which suggest that these underworld places were in fact real - and that

they were in all likelihood used for 'initiation ceremonies' that could be

undertaken by anyone who sought 'higher knowledge',

According to US researcher and author, Robert Temple, pre-arranged

visits to the 'underworld' probably took the form of symbolic heroic journeys where a 'customer' or dignitary or initiate was first taken into a






drugged - then





underground river. They then traveled in a boat to a supposed 'kingdom of

the dead' where they were spoken to by an 'oracle' or 'spirit' about the

meaning of life - or merely related messages from dead relatives or the

gods. Suitably enlightened, or scared silly, the devotee would then be

returned to the land of the living- no doubt poorer and exhausted from the

experience, but thoroughly initiated into the mysteries1 of the world,










mounting evidence that they did in many prehistoric and proto-civilized

cultures, then they're like an early theme park ride. Fun and terrifying at

the same time. More importantly, these adventures could represent the

metaphorical hero's journey in action - with its four main components:

normallife, the quest, confrontation with death, and rebirth.

Various cults and secret societies use initiation ceremonies that imitate a death and rebirth scenario as tools to progress from one level of wisdom to the next. Two thousand years ago, the Gnostics reputedly used a

'purification through water' ritual to symbolize detachment from the material world into a more spiritual existence, a practice that was perhaps

the model of the Christian baptism. Freemasons too use rituals that symbolizes death and rebirth when candidates move from one degree to another, apparently reenactments of ancient murderous events from

Solomon's temple, according to some sources,

Of course, the most famous initiation story is probably that of Christ,

whose life, as in all hero's journeys, can be broken down into four main

components. In the New Testament, Christ was: called, tested, crucified and

resurrected. In its simplest form, the hero's journey is actually personified

by the story of Jesus, To some mythic researchers, the story of Christ has all the hallmarks of being largely fictional for that reason or, at the very

least, allegorical. What's interesting, though, is that much of the hero's journey mythology predates Christianity - and even perhaps traditional god worship,

It's curious to me that the evidence for the commonality of the hero's

journey motif in antiquity was essentially rediscovered at a time when society gained an interest in living without God, when we began to focus

on looking for answers within ourselves, with no particular need for a

supreme deity to guide us. In this sense, individuation is essentially a

modern concept although, the more we look into it, we see that it's actually

an ancient sacred process - and perhaps practice - that existed long before

we formalized our relationship with the divine,

The Hero'sJourney Template

While most hero journey models take the form of a circle - with the

hero working anticlockwise - I find these far too confusing to be useful, Mine, as I suggested at the beginning of this section, is divided in four

quarters, and moves more logically, clockwise:

L Normal Life

2 , Meeting the Challenge

TheAdventure Unfolds



TheSupreme Test

The circle is then divided horizontally in half as the outer journey

£9 licNIthterj




(that which is visible in the plot of your story) and the inner journey (the

one that happens in the mind of the characters,)

Of course, the never ending circle of being human, rising to a challenge, meeting it and becoming wiser is basically a model of our daily

lives. It's how we exist and survive. The rhythm inherent in life on our

planet is fundamental. It's how we count the seasons, We go to sleep each

day - a kind of mini death - after learning and growing during our waking hours. We reemerge each morning, fresh for new challenges and learning,

It's who we are, what we do. Without change and growth we grow bored

and restless. It's human nature to want to increase our appreciation of

consciousness continually,

In the hero's journey, we each start from a state of normality and

inevitably begin to question where we stand. We seek knowledge and find

that we are tested. And it is only after we have pushed ourselves and

gained more understanding that we discover something new about the

world and. ourselves. And hence our new 'normal' state is that of a more

enlightened person - and so the cycle continues,

Writing a story is a cathartic and energizing experience, but it is also

about the growth of the

writer, as a person

and an

artist. With each

successive story, each new heroic journey, we become wiser, even better

people, with more understanding and compassion than before. Therefore,

as we delve deeper into our art, the more wonderful and mysterious the world becomes until, when we finish each new story, we might be seen to take a little step up on the ladder of consciousness,

The Tarot

The mythic journey is part of our culture. It's sometimes hidden - which is what 'occult' means. Tarot cards, though they are open to many

interpretations, are, to me, essentially a template of the everyman's journey to seek wisdom and understanding. Here is not the place to investigate the origins of the Tarot. There are many theories, some of them

bizarre and clearly untrue. It remains only to say that the Tarot does

represent pretty much all of the fundamental situations, experiences and

dilemmas all of us

metaphorical form,

would expect to encounter in our lives, at least in

We all of us begin as The Fool or 'neophyte' - a beginner, in other words - who must face the challenges of the world - authority, disaster,

change, love, death etc,,








enlightenment. The Tarot, then, is simply a collection of symbols that encapsulate the journey of life - in pictorial story form,

I know many writers who actually use the Tarot as a way of inspiring ideas and possible plots. Try it yourself for fun. Tarot packs aren't usually expensive and most have descriptions about how they may be best interpreted,

Below is a very quick reading of the Major Arcana cards in order. If you

take the twenty one cards of the major Arcana and create a circle with

them, placing TheFoolin the center, you'll create a pictorial representation



hero's journey. Note how closely the numbered sequence

corresponds to the hero's journey template - and to the clock-face I

mentioned at the start of this section,

The 'call to action' common in fiction is represented by The Fool - the

beginner, the seeker of truth, and the person yearning for more experience

and wisdom,

The first five cards, TheMagician, TheHigh Priestess, TheEmpress, The

Emperor, and The Hierophant show the various attributes of a person in

ordinary life: infinite potential (and possessing all the skills they need), a

sense of mystery - something more out there - a connection with the

natural order of things, and an awareness that society runs on authority

from the state and faith in high ideals to function normally. The first five cards represent the life we have at the beginning of any journey,

The next five cards, TheLovers, The Chariot, Strength, TheHermit, and

The Wheel of Fortune, show how the heroic fool must navigate various life

lessons: love, ambition,