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Sunday, January 3, 2021


Post by Doris McCraw 

writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

Here it is a New Year already. If you're like me it's a time of reflecting on what's gone before and preparing for what's to come. I thought I might combine both and pass on some resources I've used or will use in the future as I continue the author journey.

A number of years ago I spent many an hour listening to Bill Moyers interview Joseph Campbell. Campbell is known for his work on "The Hero's Journey", "The Power of the Myth" and "The Hero with a Thousand Faces". While all his work is fascinating, "The Hero's Journey" is the one most quoted, the most familiar. If you've watched "Star Wars" you've taken the hero's journey with Luke Skywalker. If you've watched "The Adventures of Merlin" you've taken the hero's journey with Merlin. (This is not to say women don't make the same journeys. Think "Xena, Warrior Princess".

Campbell is quoted as saying in the book, "Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey, Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work"    "You know, I didn't write my books for critics and scholars. I wrote them for students and artists. When I hear how much my work has meant to them - well, I can't tell you how happy it makes me. That means that this great stuff of myth, which I have been s privileged to work with, will be kept alive or a whole new generation. That's the function of the artist, you know, to reinterpret the old stories and make them come alive again, in poetry, painting, and now movies." (and I would add books)

Photo property of the author

Most say the journey is composed of twelve stages. 

1. Ordinary world 2. Call to Adventure 3.Refusal of the Call 4.Meeting the Mentor 5. Crossing the First Threshold  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies  7. Approach to the Innermost Cave  8. Ordeal  9. Reward  10. The Road Back  11. Resurrection  12.  Return with the Elixer

With my background in theater and film, the three-act structure is almost second nature. 

1. Introduction of the characters and conflict  2. Develops the story, heightened drama, twists, and turns 3. Final confrontation, climax, and conclusion.

Although I may not always use all the above options, I think they follow the natural flow of a person's story. When I find a story idea, I tend to think in terms of the above structures. 

To continue the idea of the hero/heroine's journey, Steven Pressfield, in his book, "The Artist's Journey", writers have already taken the journey. He lists the stages of the journey a follows:

1. The Ordinary World,  2.  The Call,  3. Refusal of the Call,  4. The Mentor Appears,  5.  Crossing the Threshold,  6.  Trials and Tribulations, Friends, Foes,  7.  Primal Ordeal,  8. The Payoff,  9.  Getting Our,  10.  Resurrection,  11.  A Gift for the People.

Pressfield contends that prior to our writing we have taken and completed the journey. It is the journey that has allowed us to write. It is our gift for the people. 

So where do the ideas come from? For me, they may be the 'what if' for a minor character in a story I've read. It could have been an article in an old newspaper or history book. It could even be a snippet from a television show or movie. There are ideas all around, even your home town or family stories.

Here are some books, tools, and ideas you may find useful.

The interview between Moyers and Campbell and/or any book by Campbell

"Fill-in-the-Blank Plotting by Linda George

Although I've not used it, friends have spoken of the software 'Plottr'

I hope some of these resources will spark anew your desire to tell the stories only you can tell. The world needs them. Here's to a year of creativity and fun as we all take this 'author' journey. Please share any readings or resources you have used. Sharing is one of the ways I learn since time is not always on my side. <Smile>

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet


  1. Fascinating insight to your process. I feel I've done a lot of this without planning to do so. I clearly need to look at the stages a lot more carefully. Thanks for this and Happy New Year.

    1. The hero's journey is so much a part of our collected myth. At least I think so. Like you, I naturally seem to write that journey as we all seem to take it ourselves. I hope you find the study as fascinating as myself, or at least enjoy the journey. Thank you for the kind words. Doris

  2. I confess I haven't read either book, but have heard of the "journey" books. So many books, so little time, even in retirement. As always, you provide great information, Doris. I wish you a wonderfully productive new year.

    1. Elizabeth, I've read some of these ages ago when I first became interested in Campbell. It is my hope that the distilled information would be of some use to others.

      I wish you the same for 2021 and beyond. Doris

  3. We had a workshop in my local chapter of Romance Writers of America (Carolina Romance Writers) on the Hero's Journey. I remember being excited to learn there was an actual process and took oodles of notes. Without taking out those notes, though, I present the story much to the accordance of those principles because that's what comes naturally.

    "What If" is the hinge that begins most story ideas. I spend a huge amount of time in my head working out the "what if" when I'm developing a story. I also keep a writer's journal in which I write things I've seen, snatches of conversations I've overheard, and ideas that magically come along.

    A provocative blog, Doris. I wish you a wonderful new year.

  4. Sarah, thank you for the supportive words. I truly to believe the journey is in our DNA and we natually follow that path when we write. I've always thought about a journal, but have had such a good memory (I remember most of what I hear and read) that I never started one. I admire that you do.

    I also spend a lot of time in my head before ever commiting word to paper.

    I wish you the best and more in this coming year and beyond. Doris

  5. Thanks, Doris! Very useful and interesting points. I read about the hero's journey in a book by Christopher Vogler, "The Writer's Journey" and found it very inspiring.
    Happy New Year to you and yours

    1. I'm glad it was helpful. Vogler's book is interesting. Have you read Pressfield's book? There are so many works that are useful for writers and each person probably finds the ones that resonate with them.

      Wishing you a wonderful 2021 and beyond. Doris

  6. Thanks, Doris. I appreciate you sharing this.

    1. You are very welcome. Helping others is important to me. Doris