The hero’s journey structure is most commonly identified with the fantasy genre, but it can easily be utilised as a framework for narrative structure in any genre. More detailed than the three or five act structure, the hero’s journey also places the focus directly on your protagonist. The hero’s journey shouldn’t be considered as a rigid template, but as a source of inspiration that is highly adaptable with components that can be altered to suit your unique narrative. When the hero’s journey is considered in combination with the three, five, seven or nine act structures, it can help you to craft a tight narrative that is well paced and hits all the important marks in terms of character development and key plot points.
The hero is introduced, then forced to leave their comfort zone, and through a series of events, decisions and/or influences (supernatural or natural), is (often reluctantly) drawn into a quest.
The hero, often with the guidance of a mentor, undergoes trials and temptations in their quest. The hero overcomes adversity, atones for mistakes, and achieves knowledge, often realising at this point what is at stake or the potential reward if the goal is achieved.
The hero approaches the major challenge and goes through the ordeal, emerging victorious but often at a great cost, and/or with the risk that anything gained may be lost again.
The hero returns home, often facing at least one more test that finally resolves the primary conflict of the narrative. The hero is transformed on a significant level, and life will never be as it once was.
While it is similar to the arranged in this manner, the hero’s journey is similar to a four act structure, though more character driven, and can also double as a source of inspiration when trying to fill gaps in your story. Remember that the hero’s journey is just one more tool for considering the structure of your narrative, and that it does not necessarily apply in every situation/story.
For an alternative view which advises against applying the hero’s journey in every narrative situation, see: