This is the first of what will be a series of posts about great writers and others who writers can learn from. I intend to learn from these as I post them, too. After all, when we stop learning, we start dying.
Anyone who wants to write fiction or find their own true path in life should read everything they can get their hands on by this man – Joseph Campbell.
He wrote a couple of books –
He may be among the top three authors who answered the deepest questions anyone could ever ask, about religion, mythology, writing, and their own inner nature.
He said some cool stuff. Stuff that not only inspires but saves you from the soul poisons of anger, blame, resentment, etc.
But I think my favorite is this one –
“We have not even to risk the adventure alone for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known – we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a God. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outwards, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”
Jonathan Young’s interpretations of one of Joseph Campbell’s main philosophies is pretty good, too.
He is valuable to a writer because in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he described the elements that tie together most great stories. Here’s a chart –
The book to start with is this one –
It’s an interview in the 1980’s between journalist Bill Moyers and JC. It is extraordinary. A friend I urged to read it once told me she felt as if she were “coming home” – like it tied together everything she had studied up to that point.
Like most geniuses, Campbell had a way of charting the obvious, or what feels obvious once we’re made aware of it – things we knew but didn’t know we knew about storytelling, movies, religion, and the inner workings of our own hearts and minds.
It’s important for writers to write what they know and what they feel compelled to write, but it’s also important to know the elements and, okay I’ll say it, formula that makes a story great. We don’t need to adhere to this formula slavishly. In fact, doing so can make a screenplay predictable and even boring. But if we deviate from the basic elements of the hero’s journey, we do so at our own peril.
Here’s an even simpler breakdown –
These elements are defined very thoroughly here – http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/the-hero-journey-mythic-structure-of-joseph-campbell-monomyth.html
Thanks for joining me on this particular “journey.” Please look for future posts titled “People Every Writer Should Know About.”
I hope you write a best-selling novel, hit movie, or timeless poem, and I hope this post and the others in this series help you get there.