When doing memoir writing for my ghostwriting clients, I use “The Hero’s Journey” as a way to structure the story. Of course, every person’s experience is unique. But this can serve as a basic storytelling guideline. The hero’s journey is the classic story structure of great adventures, including Homer’s The Iliad, Virgil’s The Aeneid, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.
Many contemporary memoirs also tell of a hero’s journey, including Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama.
It is also a story arc that parallels the lives of many great people, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Rosa Parks.
Sure, your life story isn’t anything like these people’s lives. That’s a good thing. But following the formula for a hero’s journey gives your memoir a structure to work from.
The stages of the Hero’s Journey:
Innocence > Call to Action > The Journey > Climax > King/Queen
In the innocence stage, the hero or heroine lives in a balanced world. Everything is familiar and known.
Then a crisis happens that upsets the hero or heroine’s world. Perhaps someone dies, an enemy appears or a health challenge occurs. This creates a call to action, which launches the character on a journey or quest. The hero or heroine leaves the familiar world in search of justice, peace, answers, treasures or the elixir of life.
The journey is the adventure itself. Along the way, the hero or heroine encounters obstacles and foes, which can be external enemies, threatening situations or internal demons. The character also finds tools and friends, including guides, wizards, talismans and gifts. Throughout the journey, the main character needs to overcome his or her weaknesses, while discovering inner strengths.
At the climax, the hero or heroine faces the final battle or ultimate test. The character must apply all the lessons learned along the journey, to defeat the enemy and win the throne.
At this point, the character becomes a king or queen. The king or queen has earned the right to teach others and share the lessons learned along the journey. The kingdom becomes the new balanced world, where the king or queen shares justice, peace, treasures and the elixirs of life.
Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a hero or heroine. Maybe the events of your life do not fit neatly into this formula.
But you have probably been on a hero’s journey. The call to action might have been a car accident, poverty, the death of a loved one, an illness or an inner challenge. Your journey might have been the quest for wealth, health, self-expression, love, peace or justice.
Along the way, you may have felt challenged by societal beliefs, competitors, doubtful relatives or your own fears. And you have been helped by teachers, guides and friends. As you learned valuable lessons and overcame those challenges, you gained wisdom and a new outlook on life. You became a king or queen in that area.
In life, not everyone wins the final battle. Some lose themselves to cynicism, resentment and hopelessness.
But if you have overcome these challenges, you are a hero or heroine. However insignificant it may seem, yours is a story of light over darkness, hope over despair.
Your hero or heroine’s journey is important, because it allows you to share experiences and create meaning in your life. It is also a way to inspire others and leave your legacy.
We all need hero’s journeys. Since ancient times, human beings have gathered around fires sharing their adventures, experiences and wisdom. Such stories give us a sense of history, community and connection.
When you share your hero or heroine’s journey, you inspire all of us to triumph.
If you would like to find a ghostwriter to help you share your hero’s story, please contact us.