Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Hero's Journey

Watched a two-hour show about the Star Wars saga on the History Channel. Overall I liked it (although I really do wonder about their selection of talking heads. Peter Jackson was a coup, but some of those academics were . . . ummm . . . silly) but does anyone out there agree with me that this "Hero's Journey" formula is wearing thin?

To clarify:

  • Joseph Campbell was brilliant, and Hero with a Thousand Faces is worth reading twice.

  • Archetypes pack a ton of punch.

  • All authors can draw inspiration from mythic tales.

But . . . this idea that there is an esoteric formula for screenplays and novels that derives from ancient myth and traverses step by step through twists and turns . . . I have a problem with that.

I've heard lectures and read articles that try to hammer movies like Die Hard and It's a Wonderful Life into these multi-step formulas. A lot of convoluted interpretations are being forced where they don't really fit. OK, maybe I'm just not getting it, but lots of books are being sold that tell would-be writers to fit their stories to a magic formula and miracles will happen.

Seems to me that if you write a really great story, it'll lend itself to all sorts of interpretations. Maybe someone will diagram it out so that it matches their mythic hero's path. But a good story is a good story is a good story is a good story.

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