Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Hero's Inner Journey

Merry Christmas to my Seeker sisters and all our Seeker friends! I hope you have a happy and blessed holiday, visit with family and friends, eat lots of goodies but not gain an ounce and anticipate a successful writing year ahead.

Before I finish the last of the gift wrapping and bake a batch of cookies, I’d like to share some really great information from a set of DVD’s I’ve just listened to. They’re called The Hero’s Two Journeys by Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays that Sell and Chris Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey. Even though the workshop is designed more for screenwriters and playwrights, novelists can benefit, as well. I sure did, and no, they’re not paying me to say that!

The two journeys are the hero’s outer journey and his inner journey. The outer one is the plot, the journey of achievement. It’s the visible story. The inner journey is the internal growth, the story of fulfillment.

Hauge talks about how during the course of the story the hero progresses from fear to courage, from being defined by others to being defined by himself. That’s what hero’s do—they grow inside and become better, stronger, wiser etc. More heroic, obviously. The obstacles to this growth come from within the hero.

When the writer begins to develop her character, she needs to give him a longing—a deeply felt desire. But the character is only paying lip service because he’s really too frightened to go after it. They lack the courage to go after it. An example that may hit too close to home—a writer who wants to be published more than anything in the world, but lacks the courage to submit his manuscript because he can’t handle the possibility of rejection.

The character has already suffered a wound and hasn’t gotten over it. She suffers this unhealed source of continuing pain throughout the story. This suffering may be from an event or an on-going situation.

Out of that wound comes a fear that the character tries to protect herself against. He can’t get too close to another character. Out of that fear comes the character’s identity. She says in effect, “This is who I am,” but she’s really not presenting her true self—her true essence. She’s putting on a persona, a false front, a mask, the armor that keeps us from experiencing the pain of who we are and being wounded again.

Her armor protects her, but it doesn’t allow her to be who she really is. So the growth occurs when the character gives up her armor. Her inner journey is from identity to essence, from death to life. It’s a process, not a moment in time. And this is a tug of war between protection and risk.
All this intertwines with the hero’s outer journey.

Hauge identifies four character types: the hero, reflection (mentor, sidekick, best friend), nemesis and romantic interest.

The romantic character is the object of the hero’s pursuit and the reward from moving from identity to essence. The hero and heroine both see beneath each other’s identity and understand their true essence and beauty. It’s the other’s essence that they find so attractive.

He sees the character going through six different stages in his inner journey.

Stage 1—He’s living in his protective identity.
Stage 2—He gets a glimpse of his true essence and what life could be like if he lived in his essence.
Stage 3—He moves toward his essence without losing his identity. He’s not fully committed.
Stage 4—He’s now into essence, fully committed, but in fear.
Stage 5—He and the heroine now separate and all is lost. The outside world has intruded. He tries to retreat to his identity, but it doesn’t work any longer. He realizes he must have his romantic partner.
Stage 6—He’s living in essence. His journey/destiny is complete. His identity is dead, but his essence lives. He now defines himself. And he gets the girl. The End.

Merry Christmas!


  1. Happy Christmas Eve Day!

    I put the coffee pot on.

    Interesting stuff about the journey. I think we can look at classic stories and apply it to see how it works. Thanks for sharing!

    Hope all shopping, wrapping, feasting and gathering goes well for everybody!

  2. Cara, are those workshops from the last ACFW conference?
    I know I should be thinking about sugar plums and such but it's things like plotting and lists that swirl around my head!

    Merry Christmas weekend to you all.
    I'm holding off on the butter/cream/fat/salt/sugar for a few more hours.

  3. Cara, Great post. I love Chris Volgler's stuff. There is so much to learn from screenwriting. After all the screen shows and doesn't tell. LOL

    Debra, you are funny. No sugar plums. Plots instead? You definitely are a writer. Have to admit I do that myself.

    And Ann bless you for the coffee this early hour. To go with the coffee, I have pumpkin pie with whip cream and drizzled with honey. Does anyone else love their pie in the morning???

    Merry Christmas to all of you.

  4. I just have a cup of latte so my brain is starting to wake up--slowly. It's raining here in northwest Florida which is certainly not as pretty as snow. But it's safer. And warmer.

    I wrote about the Inner Journey instead of the Outer Journey because there's not so much said about it. Hauge talks about 6 steps, but Vogler has several more.

    Debra, I don't know if those same workshops were given at ACFW. Hauge and Vogler are both amazing teachers.

    Thanks for stopping by on the day before Christmas, one of the busiest days of the year!

  5. Okay, Cara, I am TOTALLY impressed at the depth of your blog this close to Christmas -- WOW!! Because unlike Debra, the things swirling in my brain are not plotting and lists, but cleaning and last-minute Christmas presents and cards.

    I love anything to do with heroes, so this one was right up my alley -- thanks for sharing!! Very informative and insightful, even for my pea brain this time of the morning (on Christmas Eve,no less!).

    Anyway, a blessed Christmas to all and to all a good day!


  6. Michael was at RWA twice. The specific DVDs are available on his website. Frankly I own ALL his DVDs and they are awesome. I am at the point where I should buy them again as mine are so used.

    These are classic plotting Deb Dixon's Goal, Motivation and Structure.


    ANN!!! Thanks for the java. I am sleep walking here!!

  7. Cara -- Tina got me hooked on his teaching 2-3 years ago. Top notch stuff!

  8. Oh Cara,
    Merry Christmas and thanks for the post!!
    I felt like you were describing the heroine in my wip to perfection. WOW!
    Now I've gotta figure out if I'm going to give her sufficient and believable growth.

    I've never heard of the author (duh - isn't that the perfect sign of an amateur), but I'm going to look him up. Great teaching.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Excellent post, Cara! Love the nutshell of the hero's internal journey. Sounds simple. NOT. :-)

    Merry Christmas Eve Seekerville! Our night to gather with family. Have a blessed Christmas!


  10. I tend to get lost after the beginning of my story is finished and I'm into Act 2--or whatever you want to call it. There's a lot of info on the outer journey--different number of turning pts. etc.--but I really get lost when it comes to the romance and the hero/heroine's inner struggle and journey. So I think this should help me.

    Chris Vogler is wonderful, as well, and a little more detailed.

  11. Thanks for the coffee, Ann. Can never have too much of a good thing : )

    And thank you for bringing me back to reality, Cara! I'm drowning in homemade cookies, carmels and eggnog. I'm not a grinch in the least, but hey, I don't think my waistline can take much more of this holiday cheer!!!

    Michael Hauge is a great teacher. Even though most of his fundemental teaching is geared to screenwriting, the concepts pertain to fiction writing, too.

    The man is a classic.

    Merry Christmas, everyone and enjoy the blessed day!

  12. Interesting stuff, Cara! I was at RWA for one of Michael Hauge's presentations and was very, very impressed. I also have The Hero's 2 Journey's DVD--very instructive. Our local ACFW chapter is going to devote our January and February meetings to watching and discussing the DVD.

  13. Okay, I have to agree with Julie...very impressed by this post on Christmas Eve *grin* Nice post, very instructive!

    My sister helped me wrap ALL my presents yesterday(truth be told, she did most of it! I have to be honest...Santa's still watching, he could change his mind about me *wink*) I am so thankful for her because I don't even know how far behind I'd be without her. We're at grandma's getting stuff ready for the feast we're having tomorrow. I'm on a lil break, but I guess I'll head back now.


  14. Hi Cara:

    I’d really like to view the DVD. On his site he includes two CD’s as a bonus with the purchase of the DVD. To wit: Michael Hauge’s Screenwriting For Hollywood and Chris Vogler’s Using Myth To Power Your Story.

    Have you had the opportunity to hear these CD’s. I’d like your opinion.


  15. Wow, Cara, this is so awesome!!! I copied some of this and am printing it out now. This will help with my next story.

    I cooked a turkey, cornbread dressing, fresh cranberry sauce, squash casserole, green peas, sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar on the side, and made a pumpkin roll last night. A real Alabama-style feast! But we were so full we couldn't even eat the pumpkin roll! But my kids won't forget about it, trust me.

    So I'm taking a break to read this, and I'm glad I did! This is inspiring me! And I love to be inspired.

  16. Hi Vince! I bought the DVDs through Amazon. It had 3 DVDs--the Outer Journey, the Inner Journey, the Journey of Erin Brockovich and 1 CD: Screenwriting for Hollywood and Using Myth to Power Your Story. I haven't listened to the CD yet, but I've watched all the DVDs twice and took notes. There was so much great info.

  17. Hi Cara and All you Seekers,
    I bought Hero's Two Journeys in November after someone recommended them as a good teaching tool. I listened to them over and over again on my to and from work. An excellent resource. Great post Cara.
    Merry Christmas Everyone!

  18. Wow, I LOVE this! I'm going to have to come back and copy these steps. I really love the part about the deep desire in the beginning. It made me think of some of my favorite heroes, the playboy or brooding types who live in emotional isolation but secretly long for a real love. Great advice! Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Merry Christmas Seekerville!

  19. I saw that Vince. I have not heard the DVDs but I am tempted to buy the new packaged set just to get them. It is quite a deal. I paid 50 for my DVD set alone.