Take your life and choices into your own hands, reader, as you embark on a Hero’s Journey with us
In our previous installment of this blog series, we explained what the Hero’s Journey is, and why it’s such a great storytelling template to build from—particularly when it comes to character arcs. In this blog, let’s take a closer look at the Hero’s Journey as you, the reader, become Hero, the protagonist of your own story.
Who are you? You’re a protagonist named Hero, and you’re just a regular person with a Job living in a City, who does regular things. That is, of course, until one day when everything changes—and you get to decide how and why. Take your fate into your own hands as you complete a Hero’s Journey from beginning to end!
As you read through this blog, select whichever choice you like the best (A, B, or C). You don’t have to stick with one letter throughout the blog; you can choose any option you like at any time. At the end of the blog, review your choices to determine what kind of Hero’s Journey you took.
The Call to Adventure
One ordinary day, you’re brushing your teeth when you get a sudden chill down your spine. You can’t explain it, but you know that everything is about to change. How and why, you don’t know. As you watch toothpaste swirl down the drain, like it does every day, you wonder why you feel that way. Nothing in particular comes to mind, so you shrug and move on about your day.
You proceed throughout the day as normal: putting on a suitable outfit for the chilly but clear weather, going for a walk through the City streets, drinking cold brew with oat milk for breakfast, and working on your computer for a while. But then, around noon, something happens. Something happens that never happens, at least not to you. What is it?
A) You fall asleep at your desk and have a strange prophetic dream in which an ethereal voice tells you to find and take a secret passageway in the City. In your dream, the voice guides you on the path to finding it and tells you that evil lurks at the end of the passageway and you must defeat it.
B) Your email dings with a new message. When you check it, there’s no sender—and the message gives you directions to find a secret passageway in the City. The email warns you that if you don’t take the passageway, you will die.
C) There’s a knock on the door. When you open it, a friend you haven’t seen in years is waiting on the other side with a grim expression. They tell you that they need your help saving the world from disaster and urge you to come with them to a secret passageway in the City.
No matter which Call you choose to answer, ultimately you…
Refusal of the Call
Refuse to find the secret passageway. You’re very content with your current life and have work meetings to attend later in the afternoon anyways. Evil, death, disaster? Sounds fake to you. Besides, you already went on a walk today. Why would you go on another one? You shrug off the Call and go about your regular life. If you were to dig deeper, you know that the reason you want to stick to regular life is…
A) You’re worried about getting fired from your job if you step away from your desk. You need this job because you have a lot of debt to pay off.
B) You’re suspicious of scams and this definitely feels like one. You got scammed out of a lot of money earlier this year and you aren’t going to entertain anything like that again.
C) You seriously doubt the existence of a secret passageway in the City. And even if one existed, where would it go? Probably somewhere dangerous, which you definitely don’t want.
Nonetheless, you can’t forget the message you’ve gotten. What if there is a secret passageway? What if you die or the world ends because you don’t do this? Curiosity may have killed the cat, but didn’t satisfaction bring it back? You sit back in your desk chair and wonder if you’ve given up on a big opportunity to bring some excitement into your otherwise very boring and stagnant life.
Meeting the Mentor
With doubt lingering in the back of your mind, you decide to get some advice. How do you go about doing this?
A) You turn to tarot cards. You’ve often used these to help guide your choices in regular life, so why not now? When you give yourself the reading, turning each card over, there’s a clear message that sends a thrill down your spine.
B) You call your older sister. She’s always been there to give you advice and talk you out of making stupid decisions. This time, though, her advice is unexpected.
C) You decide to get some fresh air and walk to the nearby park. There, you sit on a bench. Soon, a man joins you there, sitting down next to you. He looks old and wise. You strike up a conversation which ultimately leads him to advising you…
In the end, the message is clear: you should definitely go find this secret passageway. If you don’t, you’ll be curious about it forever and you wouldn’t want that, now would you? Also, according to the message, dire circumstances will take place if you don’t. So there’s also that.
Crossing the Threshold
Filled with a new sense of determination, you decide to find this secret passageway. Just in case, you pack up a backpack with some snacks, a water bottle, and an extra sweatshirt. You put on your best walking shoes and head out the door, making sure to lock it behind you. Then, you head out into the City, trying to remember the directions you received. As you reach the place where the secret passageway should be, you see:
A) A strange ripple in the stone wall between two dumpsters. As you get closer to it, ignoring the stench of garbage, you put your hand out and it goes right through the wall. Suddenly, another hand grasps onto yours and yanks you right through!
B) A small door camouflaged into the wall by a mural. When you press your hand against it, it creaks open and you see a dark, winding hallway beyond. A head pops from around the corner, startling you. The person grins.
C) An open sewer entrance in the ground. You wrinkle your nose; there’s no way you’re going down there. But then it begins to glow and you realize it doesn’t actually stink—perhaps it’s not a sewer after all? Then someone pushes you into it and you fall down, screaming.
On the other side of the threshold, you meet someone else from this strange new world. Will this person be a friend or foe?
Tests, Allies, and Enemies
Your first challenge reveals itself: whether or not to trust this new figure in your life. After all, they are the reason you find yourself in this situation. You face each other. An unknown emotion flickers over their face as they introduce themselves. As it turns out:
A) This person is your Ally. They are here to aid you on your journey. Their first step in doing so is taking your hand and guiding you through the darkness.
B) This person is your Mentor. The magical voice from your dream has come to life, your older sister has joined you on the journey, or the old man from before has now appeared in front of you to aid you through your first obstacle.
C) This person is a Trickster. First, they bargain with you, causing you to give up your snacks to them. Then, they help you through the first obstacle.
Whoever they are, you have help on the first part of your journey—which is going to be important for overcoming your first obstacle. As you and your new companion make your way through the passage, you encounter:
A) A troll blocking the way forward. The troll demands a toll for continuing forward. But you didn’t bring any money with you! Thinking quickly, you and your companion trick the troll into believing that your extra sweatshirt is a magical object that grants the wearer invisibility. The troll takes the sweatshirt as the toll but then threatens to kill both of you anyway! However, you ask the troll how he can do that when he hasn’t even tested his hard-earned prize. How does he know that you’ve been truthful? The troll becomes agitated and squeezes into the sweatshirt, slightly ripping its seams. You wince. That sweatshirt actually belongs to your sister. The troll looks at you and your companion triumphantly as you both pretend to be unable to see him. He swings his large club at you; you stumble aside, making it look like an accident. The troll trips over his own feet, smashing his head on the ground. As quickly as possible, you grab his club and whack him over the head with it. You and your companion move on safely.
B) A huge metal gate that has been shut for one thousand years. Your companion tells you no one has been able to open it, but if you don’t both of you won’t be able to leave this place and you’ll die here like the others. Skeletons piled against the walls make you gulp in fear. But you’re Hero so you decide you absolutely won’t die here. You then realize that a riddle is written on the lock holding the gates shut. It just so happens you know the answer to this riddle because of your varied interests: A human, time, courtship, and I haven’t the slightest idea! To the shock of your companion, the gates swing open.
C) A large, rushing river separates you from the next part of your journey. Your companion worries that you’ll both be swept away if you try to swim across it. Then you spy a boat sitting on the opposite shore. You find a fishing line and use it to reel the boat in. Then, you and your companion get into the boat and perilously travel through the water to the other side.
After overcoming this first challenge, you meet a new companion. Whether you rescue them from the troll, the gate, or the river, they immediately pledge their loyalty to you and the three of you depart on the next part of your journey. But first, there’s something that’s been bothering you…
Approach to the Inmost Cave
You ask your companions what this is really all about. Why have you been sent on this journey when you’re just an ordinary person, albeit one named Hero? They look at each other with apprehension, wondering if what they tell you will send you running back the way you came. Then, your first companion reveals that:
A) An Evil Wizard is using his powers to suck the City of its power. This passageway leads to his secret lair. Long ago, a Good Witch prophesied that only a Hero could defeat him and so you received the Call.
B) It turns out that your Boss from your everyday Job is actually a God who has decided that this City and everyone in it must be destroyed. This passageway is a bridge between the mortal and immortal realms. Only a Hero can enter it and survive, so you have been tasked with defeating her.
C) An Ancient Magical Creature has discovered that the City’s lifesource can bring it back to its original power and form, so it is slowly draining energy from everyone and everything. This passageway leads to where the lifesource is, and only a Hero can find it.
Whatever the main conflict is, you as the Hero must try to defeat it. With new resolve, you approach the place where you will face the ultimate ordeal and decide to:
A) Defeat it using stealth. You know you have a way of sneaking about and you can’t see yourself facing this task head-on. You’ll sneak in and defeat the evil before anyone even knows you’ve been there.
B) Defeat it using diplomacy. You know that you’re amazing at speaking. You feel you can convince anyone of anything, and you can use this to amend any situation, even the crazy one you’re currently in.
C) Defeat it by facing it directly. In life, you’ve always found that it’s best to face problems head on. You’ll cut the head right off this evil!
Depending on the path you have chosen, your newest companion equips you with the means to complete it:
- If you chose path A from the options above, you receive a cloak of camouflage.
- If you chose path B from the options above, you receive a shield of stone.
- If you chose path C from the options above, you receive a sword of slaughter.
You brace your shoulders and clench your sweaty palms as you turn to face the main ordeal. There’s no turning back now, even if you sort of wish you could. But no, you shake your head, you couldn’t do that after already going through what you’ve gone through! You’re ready to confront your enemy. You take up your new magical item and jump into action. After a (sneaky, compelling, brutal) battle, the result is:
A) You defeat them successfully with the help of your companions and supplies.
B) You fail to defeat them, losing one of your companions after the other betrays both of you. Your method of confrontation turns out to be the wrong one and you are left to despair.
C) You and the great evil fall deeply in love and you decide to join them in their evil doing. Your companions are left flabbergasted and betrayed.
You’ve made your choice. Whether you succeeded, failed, or switched sides, now that you have faced the ordeal it’s time to reap the rewards. In this case, the reward is:
A) Newfound friends and allies and the knowledge that you have saved the City—plus a sense of confidence and greater maturity in yourself. If you can do this, you can do anything! Including deep-cleaning your apartment.
B) MONEY. Enough to pay off your debts and invest in your future. You feel a sense of excitement for life again and your anxiety decreases. You could even go out for a nice dinner if you want!
C) Power and skill. You are in control of yourself like you never have been before, plus you have a power you didn’t know about. You can abandon your old life and embark on a new one—this time as the master of it.
The Road Back
Now that you’ve overcome the main ordeal, no matter the outcome, it’s time to head home—even if it’s because you’re planning to destroy it. What obstacles do you face on the way?
A) The passageway has closed itself off and you’re trapped in this new world with no way to get out.
B) You take the same way back that you came, but now the passageway seems winding and endless. You can’t find your way back to the same entrance you came through.
C) The new world you’ve entered begins to shake and smoke. It’s destroying itself and taking you with it!
Before you can get back to the other world—whether to return to your old life, try to forget what happened in this place, or to destroy it with your new love—you first have to face this new obstacle. This time, how do you overcome the challenge?
A) Using the power of friendship (along with the magical item you gained), you are able to open a new passageway back to your world.
B) Using the knowledge you’ve gained in this new world, you realize the situation you’re facing is just an illusion and all you need to do is realize that it’s not actually happening.
C) You don’t… this time, you die!
Whether you live or die, you still need to face a final test. What is this test?
A) In order to leave, you must give up everything you’ve gained along the way—including your memories of your entire journey. With a heavy heart, you do this.
B) In order to leave, you must master a whole new power, which takes over two weeks! But you do it and are able to escape into your previous world.
C) In order to leave, you have to come back from the dead. Heavy ask on that one! Nonetheless, it works, somehow, and you find yourself back in your living, breathing body.
Note: You can choose this option even if you didn’t choose option C before. It just means you died after choosing option A or B previously.
Once you face the final test, you find yourself spat back out into your previous world, a changed person. Even if you don’t remember anything that’s happened.
Return with the Elixir
You take the long walk through the City, breathing in the fresh (and somewhat stinky) air. You unlock your apartment door and are greeted with your familiar hallway. Pictures of friends and family hang on the walls. Once there, you find that:
A) You feel a poignant sense of triumph. You overcame so much to be here and have truly grown as a person. You’re ready to tackle real life again with a newfound sense of confidence and power!
B) You feel a deep sense of loss. Loss of memories, loss of companions, loss of innocence—whatever it is, you’re a changed person and your grief is palpable.
C) I don’t know, reader, what do you feel after everything you’ve been through and all the choices you’ve made?
However you chose to end your story, you can see how the Hero’s Journey is a great template for creating compelling stories and characters. Go back and reread the one you just created. Is there anything you would change? I encourage you to take the journey over and over again, exploring different paths and outcomes as you do. Add your own twists, turns, challenges, and characters along the way just to see all the different places you can take your story.
Keep an eye out for the next installments in this blog series as you write, using the information to craft your perfect story. Once you’re done, consider submitting your work to F(r)iction!