The writer's journey : mythic structure for writers

by Christopher Vogler

Paperback, 1998




Studio City, CA : M. Wiese Productions, c1998.


This edition of the well-known text on the connection between mythology and storytelling contains a revised chapter on the Star Wars series, new illustrations and diagrams, and new chapters (presented in the appendices) on life force operating in stories, the mechanism of polarity in storytelling, the wisdom of the body, catharsis, and other concepts. The book is meant for all types of writers and outlines guidelines for plot and character development, focusing on character archetypes and the stages of a "hero's journey," drawn from Jungian psychology and the mythic studies of Joseph Campbell. Vogler uses movies to give examples throughout. He is a story consultant for Hollywood film companies and teaches filmmakers and writers around the world.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lisacronista
I have returned to this book many times over to refresh my understanding of the hero's journey. The best fiction follows this template closely, and I judge all books and movies accordingly.
LibraryThing member brbpowell
This book was extremely helpful. It's one that I'll refer back to when I feel like my plot isn't gelling
LibraryThing member opinion8dsngr
A very well done guide illustrating how Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey mythology can be used to strengthen individual writer's stories. Besides analyzing the basic structure of the Journey and providing helpful questions for authors, the book also uses over 100 films as examples and provides a
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powerful testament to the power of writing fiction.
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LibraryThing member PointedPundit
Great stories contain common elements. Christopher Vogler at the beginning of The Writers Journey calls upon the psychological writings by Carl Jung and the myth making philosophy of Joseph Campbell to explain why certain scenarios sell. In doing so, he prepares a blueprint for creating mythic
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Now in its Third edition, The Writer's Journey describes the models common in the hero's journey. In the book's first section, Vogler describes different kinds of characters who appear in stories. In the second, he discusses the stages of the journey through which the hero generally passes. The final, supplementary portion of the book explains how films like Titanic and The Full Monty follow these patterns.

Vogler is thought-provoking and insightful. Combine the lessons in this book with those from Rust Hills’ [[ASIN:0618082344 Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular]] and you have the literary foundation for penning saleable stories.

Penned by the Pointed Pundit
February 24, 2008
3:34:13 PM
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LibraryThing member olivetwist
Talk about a journey. Over the course of this book the writing took a brutal tumble from informative and interesting to ridiculous fluff. I went from happily staying up late to boredom and eye-rolling to disgust and finally actual anger while reading. Vogler's 370-page supposed guide to
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story-writing, set on the solid foundation of Joseph Campbell's work (reviewed here in the worthwhile first 70 pages), is a joke. It's a waste of time and insult to the reader, with indulgently superficial skimming of truly profound fields to back up his vague and meandering ideas.

Vogler seems perfectly unaware of the worthlessness of his repeated example of an unspecific, universal and ancient tribe with vague traditions and rituals from which all our storytelling must follow. There are no citations for this tribe or their traditions, but the logic Vogler uses is that the story structure related here is valuable and intrinsic because these universal tribal forefathers used it. He folds in cheap quotes from Aristotle and others without embarrassment, using them in all their generality to back up his unsubstantial points. There are also unbelievably (and predictably uncited) general and vague scientific examples that say little of actual science and, worse, often little to support his claims. All this devolves into a chapter on how a good story should effect several bodily organs at a time and a superficial several pages on chakras. Vogler, with little understanding of the deep worlds he's visiting, just puts together a mishmash of cultures, philosophy, religions and science (with a scattered few engaging analyses of movies according to Campbell's structure that provoke the fleeting wonder of what this book could have been) and splats it against the wall like a monkey throwing sh*t.

Some favorite lines towards the end of the book:

"According to some modern Hindu sages, Hitler may have been very open in the power and throat chakras, making him an effective communicator who could stir the emotions and marshal power with his voice, but he was probably shut tight in most of the other chakras."

"My motto as a story evaluator became, 'If it isn't making at least two organs of my body squirt fluids, it's no good.'"
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LibraryThing member gregorymose
This is an extremely useful tool when trying to plot out a novel. It has to be taken with a grain of salt, but the author himself points out repeatedly that the idea is not to slavishly follow his outline of the standard mythic patterns made famous by Joseph Campbell, but to use them as a guide and
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inspiration. His examples rely heavily on movie scripts, but his observations apply very well to novel writing.
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LibraryThing member JeaniaK
I learned a new way of looking at stories and movies from this book. They say it is one of the fundamental texts for hollywood script writers and I believe the archetypes and journey stages are strong models to refer to for the fiction writer. One might best explain this book in applying one of its
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models - the journey stages - to a film many of us are familiar with. I tried it with Forrest Gump:1) Ordinary World: Begins life as a cripple, with odds stacked against him 2) His quest becomes Jenny, an early friend who treats him normally and represents normal life. She speaks the Call to Adventure: Run Forrest, run! 3) Reluctant Hero: Forest still gets beat up, still called stupid by most 4) Mentor = Momma, who believes in him and tells him he can do anything/ “Stupid is as stupid does.” 5) Crossing the First Threshold: Becoming a football hero (through running & confusion) 6) Tests: Nearly getting killed in war, Jenny rejecting him in a coffee house, fights with Jenny’s boyfriend (they represent hippie counterculture when he is a Viet Nam military hero they protest), Jenny almost killing herself and taking his goal of gaining her as his true love from him. 7) Inmost cave: Forrest faces his first real failure in a long time as a shrimper, but Lt. Dan faces his fears of failure too and they both ride out a storm that ultimately is the saving grace for their shrimp boat business. Also, Lt. Dan invests their money making them financially secure for life. 8) Ordeal: Momma dies 9) Reward: Jenny comes back only to leave him the day after she has sex with him to prove she loves him. 10) Road Back: Forrest starts running again. People see him as a wise man and follow his lead. 11) Ressurection: Jenny contacts him, they come together, he learns he has a son! Who’s smart! 12) Return With The Elixir: The family goes back to Alabama. Jenny dies, but little Forrest is an important legacy of big Forrest’s original quest.
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LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
Perhaps better for screenwriters than novelists, there is still much to admire in this work, especially since I'm an admirer of Joseph Campbell's work, to which Vogler acknowledges a huge debt. It's thought-provoking, especially in terms of plot. As I say, perhaps not wonderful for the prose
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writer, since almost all examples are taken from film. I love the exploration of archetypes -- a great leaping off place for any writer.
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LibraryThing member annaleeblysse
So far, this is the best book I've read when it comes to books meant to help writers. It was an easy and enjoyable read ... full of helpful examples.

I read a lot of mythology so it was interesting to read this book and compare ideas I've had over the years. I've read Joseph Campbell, so the ideas
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weren't new to me. But, this book is more user friendly for a writer.
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LibraryThing member BK138
Fantastic update of Joseph Campbell's ideas applied to screenwriting. The principles work for any story, though.
LibraryThing member jvalka
Distillation of Joseph Campbell's hero's journey for novelists and screenwriters. In part one he discusses the archetypes of hero, mentor, threshold guardian, herald, shape shifter, shadow and trickster. In part two he explains each stage of the hero's journey.
LibraryThing member FourOfFiveWits
A good breakdown of the writer's journey in excruciating detail using films for examples. I would of rather seen novels used as an example but this book definitely helped me rethink characters in my own books and how the characters fit into the story and how the story progresses. The questions at
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the end of each chapter are fun writing prompts to flesh out your story that I enjoyed doing, except the ones about film.
Definitely read the appendices after finishing the main part of the book, you can skim the breakdown of the different films if you'd like, but the Star Wars section is definitely worth reading just for breaking down what the problems with the prequels were. Good read.
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LibraryThing member KR_Patterson
This book is actually for writing screenplays but applies so well for creating any story, and for life itself, really. I believe there is a well of truth in its pages. Like a treasure. I can't say enough. Honestly, I feel like I was looking through a pile of rocks and I found a diamond.
LibraryThing member ForeverMasterless
It took me awhile to get through this book. I put it down several times. Normally that would be a pretty good sign that I didn’t like the book. Not in this case.

When I first decided that I wanted to be a writer it didn’t take long before I stumbled upon the idea of the ‘Monomyth’ or ‘The
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Hero’s Journey’ popularized by the work of Joseph Campbell and it wasn’t much longer before I bought his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. That book is dense, and meandering, and not meant to help you be a better writer. It is a text book about comparative mythology, essentially, chock full of examples and excerpts from the history of storytelling to help prove his points, but completely lacking in any actual advice on applying those concepts to your own stories. I didn’t get very far into it before boredom made me put it down.

The Writer’s Journey takes Campbell’s theories and makes them more accessible in several ways. First of all, Vogler often uses popular movies as examples to get you to understand the various concepts of the monomyth. Examples from works that most people are familiar with is important in helping you understand these concepts, in my opinion, and that’s something that was extremely lacking in Campbell’s book. Second of all, Vogler has come up with many of his own terms for the various stages of the journey that, to me at least, make a lot more inherent sense than Campbell’s terminology does. Third of all, and most important, he tells you exactly how these concepts apply to writing a cohesive story. He lays out when to use them, when not to use them, and how to think about them as relates to your own work.

However, even though this book is far more accessible and practical than Campbell’s, it’s still dense, and not exactly a page-turner. That’s the only excuse I have for taking so long to finish it, because it really is a great book. I also took notes while I read, so that didn't help. If someone asked me for recommendations on books about writing though, this would definitely be in my top three picks. I found it to be an invaluable resource for understanding story structure, and for diagnosing broken plots.
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LibraryThing member Lndlindsey
The first part of this book was interesting, and I can see how it would be an important guide in a lot of novels. When I did an exercise applying this formula to one of my own stories, I was able to see how the ideas applied, but found that the order didn't work for my story. I don't think
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adherence to formulas is good for fiction. That's how you get all those books and movies that seem to be the same story with mildly different characters. But, this theory can help you give a lot of depth to your story.

As a long time gamer and fantasy reader, I was familiar with the ideas in the second part of the book and ended up skimming them.
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LibraryThing member detailmuse
In this book I described the set of concepts known as “The Hero’s Journey,” drawn from the depth psychology of Carl G. Jung and the mythic studies of Joseph Campbell. I tried to relate those ideas to contemporary storytelling…

It’s a guide to the archetypes who populate life (and
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storytelling) and the stages of heroic journeys people take. Vogler analyzes the archetypes and stages and applies them to numerous well-known films. It’s exactly the kind of “writing book” to read parallel with a current writing project -- it validates many aspects and inspires new ideas. To delve deeper and reinforce, I want to watch the “Power of Myth” videos with Campbell and Bill Moyers.
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LibraryThing member pgiunta
I began reading The Writer's Journey in April 2019, then put it aside for a few years when I became busy with several short story projects, a new novel, and a few harrowing life changes. When I picked up The Writer's Journey again in late May 2021, I started from page one again and found Vogler's
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interpretation and application of Joseph Campbell's analysis of mythology useful. I approached it in much the same way I approach outlining my novels and short stories. It is a roadmap, not a strict rule book and even Vogler admits this. When developing any story, there are many avenues a writer can take and crafting the story is an organic process. Often while writing, I will have an epiphany that takes the story in an even better direction than what I had originally outlined.

Vogler's guide is no different. I know other reviewers accuse Vogler of diluting or cheapening Campbell's work. I've heard other writers at conventions and conferences deride The Hero's Journey as an obsolete model that no longer has a place in modern storytelling. To each their own. I enjoyed The Writer's Journey and found Vogler's voice and style easy to follow. Even after three novels and over 20 short stories in my young writing career, I never stop learning and will keep this book close at hand as I work through the latest revision of my next novel.
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LibraryThing member ftmckinstry
I've read many books about writing, but none like this. This book was a turning point. It deepened my approach to the writing process through a place I loved and understood. It gave me a new, powerful lens to see through.
LibraryThing member Ranjr
This book fully explains in detail the different parts of Joseph Campbell's monomyth structure. However, it can be a bit tedious if you're familiar with Campbell, and the appendices are over-written centered around singular ideas that do not need the embellishment that they're treated with. I also
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felt that there may be a strong new-age thread running through the whole especially where the author uses The Golden Bough by James George Frazer as a reference but fortunately, it doesn't move from the juxtaposition of comparative mythology to writing into the realm of hokum. There are a lot of good ideas scattered throughout this book. I would recommend this book if you are at all interested in exploring Campbell's monomyth.
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