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The Hero’s Journey: These are the 12 steps [Template]

The Hero’s Journey: These are the 12 steps [Template]

What is The Hero’s Journey? It is named in different ways: The Path, The Adventure or The Hero’s Journey. In this article we will discuss this model and its steps. Read further…

What is The Hero’s Journey?

The Hero’s Journey is a ‘template’ for stories that contain an important protagonist (the hero). In short, it means that the hero ends up in an all-deciding crisis from the status quo, where he / she ends up transformed.

This model gained popularity in 1949 thanks to Joseph Campbell, professor of mythology, through his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

What are the 12 steps of The Hero’s Journey?

Campbell originally described seventeen steps in the development of each myth / story, but the hero’s journey is perhaps the model with the most variations in the world. It serves as a ‘template’ and every storyteller can adjust, shorten or stylize the template. Most people put the hero’s journey down in  twelve stages  .

Not every story actually uses all 17 original steps of Campbell. Some stories use fewer steps, some just zoom in on one of the steps, and some use a different order.

Step 1 – 5: chapter 1 (the prologue) the hero's journey

Step 0: The status quo (home). You get to know the main character with whom you can identify. This main character is in a comfortable environment. Still now!

Steps 2 to 4 can run together: The protagonist feels some kind of need, desire or a feeling of ‘incompleteness.’ Or there is simply a problem that must be solved. So there is a call for adventure. As a result, the main character may encounter a mentor or the mentor is introduced first, after which the main character notices that he / she wants something as a result of meeting the ‘mentor’. Usually there is also resistance against the mentor: refuse the call.

Step 5: They leave to end up in an unknown situation. Make the contrast between the two worlds as remarkable as possible.

Step 6 – 10: Chapter 2 (The Test)

Step 6: They seek, which is an ordeal full of challenges and temptations. In the meantime, they adapt to the new situation. Filmmakers call this the ‘training phase’. Think of the movie ‘The Matrix’ in which Neo is trained by Morpheus in martial arts and all the other ‘super powers’ of the new world in which Neo has ended up. The main character thus learns to deal with this new world. All his / her neuroses and psychological baggage is slowly being stripped away. Another example of this is how Scrooge is guided through the past and the future and changes so slowly. This phase therefore mainly concerns internal changes.

Step 7:  They find what they are looking for, even if it wasn’t exactly what they expected. The low point has been reached. They have to overcome the greatest challenge. This is the story’s first major turnaround, in which the protagonist’s motivations change. This is the ideal place for a plot twist.

Step 8: Things have to change. But they have to pay a heavy price for it.

Step 9: They take what they wanted.

Step 10: A transformation takes place.

Step 11 – 12: Chapter 3 (The Shift)

Step 11: They return to their known situation …

Step 12: … They return changed. They have been transformed. That is their greatest gift from the journey.

The summarized version of The Hero’s Journey

A four-step mnemonic is enough for many experienced story-makers:

  1. Home
  2. Quest
  3. Test
  4. Shift
Read this next:  Top 10 Best Books About Storytelling [2024 Update]

Applications of The Hero’s Journey

hero's journey

You can do several things with ‘The Hero’s Journey’:

  • Personal: it helps you realize where you are on your own growth path.
  • Making stories: this is a godsend for every story maker. It takes away all the hard and repetitive work of creating a story over and over again. Every Disney film follows The Hero’s Journey.
  • Telling Metaphors : Use the hero’s journey to tell a magical metaphor.
  • Also in business it is very important to take leadership over the hero’s journey of your company, and to involve the staff in it.

Books about The Hero’s Journey

Are you looking for books about The Hero’s Journey? Read Campbell’s original work – ‘The Hero of a Thousand Faces’ – or read the practical guide to putting The Hero’s Journey in 12 Steps into practice.

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!

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