Maybe working in marketing has made me a bit cynical about TV and Movies. Especially now that I have learnt about the “Hero’s Journey” 12 step story structure – which outlines what is going to happen in about 90% of every movie you are going to see. I often find myself checking the boxes throughout movies now… See if you can match movies like Star Wars, Pretty Woman, and more recently The Hunger Games to the structure which I have listed at the bottom of the post.
With less time, I am becoming more and more fussy about the entertainment worth spending time on. Game of Thrones is my absolute favourite from the last 12 months (barring watching the mighty Saints on Fox Footy).
- Investment in all aspects of the show – from production values, decent talent, and most critically, writers who can write. If you wonder what a movie or tv show is like without decent writing, just watch the abomination that the 3 Star Wars prequels were. George Lucas had every possible resource at his disposal – yet still produced steaming piles of celluloid. This guy explains it better than me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI
- There are no “saves” – if a character ends up in a sticky situation, there are very few unsatisfying “escapes”. The writers are quite prepared to sacrifice major, popular characters to progress the story. Ned Stark lost his head at the end of the first series – I kept waiting for a Robin Hoodesque escape right up to the part where his head popped onto the ground.
- The characters’ actions are usually based on self interest rather than higher moral values… no more to say there.
- The fantasy aspects add to the story without causing confusion or getting too intricate. I don’t enjoy reading fantasy and hard core science fiction because I find that the authors become too enamoured with describing the worlds they have created. Maybe it is because of the massive investment they have made in the back stories? Firefly was a good example of how to avoid spending too much time on “telling” about the situation rather than “showing”.
The Hero’s Journey
1. THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES. The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
7. APPROACH TO THE IN-MOST CAVE. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
8. THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
9. THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
10. THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
11. THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.
You can read more about it in this book :