The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Research)




My presentation notes for my group presentation with Rose, Matthew and Jack:


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So, following on from Matthew’s explanation of what a hero is, we come to the topic of the various types of heroes we can come across in stories and films.

What makes a story so captivating (as Joseph Campbell and Vogler allude to in their books) are the many different layers and combinations of personality traits which make up the main character; the hero.


Heroes come in all different shapes and sizes and it is an archetype which is arguably the most complex and interesting to look at. This is due to the fact that heroes can often veer from the “picture perfect”, idealised versions of humans or creatures that we expect them to be. Their personality types and actions which often reflect the good and bad we find in ourselves as human beings can be categorised as different hero types.


The first division of the hero types is this: those heroes that are WILLING and those that are UNWILLING. Willing heroes are synonymous with words like courage, motivation, hopefulness and being committed to the cause. Think of heroes such as Beowulf and Hercules. Unwilling heroes, however, they often reflect the popular heroes of today – they are often hesitant, full of doubts, stubborn and even downright terrified. Bilbo Baggins is a perfect example of an unwilling hero; he loves the comfort of his home in Hobbiton and is reluctant to answer the call to adventure!


The concept of an “anti hero” is one of the more complex hero types and can be easily misunderstood. Anti heroes are protagonists who lack traditional heroic qualities and we, as an audience, are often dubious of their character. However, they’re not all bad and have some redeeming qualities, making them more appealing and interesting characters to follow.

A tragic hero like Shakespeare’s “King Lear” is a character with heroic qualities that make an error of judgement which leads to their destruction. In King Lear’s case, due to his extreme pride, he tragically disowns the daughter who loves him most while his other two daughters plot to kill him.


Another way to think about heroes is through how connected or disconnected they are from society. A group oriented hero is the classic story of a protagonist leaving the society they are a part of behind, travelling to a new far off place and then, usually, returning changed and ready to re-enter that society once more. Simba’s character in “The Lion King”, illustrates how much a hero can change just by leaving their pride behind for a while.


Unlike a character like Simba, the Loner Hero such as James Bond and Indiana Jones, do not begin connected to a society. They are more at ease in the wilderness or in solitude. Their journey involves entering society and either remaining there or returning to their independent way of living deeply changed in some way.

Catalyst heroes, like Axel Foley in “Beverly Hills Cop” however, are different from all the other hero types. Like a catalyst in chemistry, they bring about change in others without being changed themselves. Axel’s character is still the main hero of the story but he, as a cop, transforms the character arcs of the other cops he works with.



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