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Writers As Learners

Jen here:

Writers should always be working to improve their craft like any artist. One way to do that is by reading. While it’s important to read novels in and outside of your genre, you also need to be reading books about the craft of writing.

Books about the craft of writing help in many ways. They can help you learn new things. But I also like to use them when I’m plotting and need inspiration for the structure or characters. Or when I’m writing and I’m stuck. A good craft book can help me figure out what’s not working.

Neither of those reasons is why I’ve picked up The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. I first tracked it down through my library and then I liked it enough that I knew I wanted to buy a copy for my library.

“The hero’s journey is a pattern that seems to extend in many dimensions, describing more than one reality. It accurately describes, among other things, the process of making a journey, the necessary working parts of a story, the joys and despairs of being a writer, and the passage of a soul through life” (p. xiv).

I’ve been intrigued for a long time by the idea of the hero’s journey and have generally used the structure in plotting my books. It was a structure that made sense to me, and it was easy to see in the many Disney movies my kids watched. Don Miller talks about the power of story to reach people in many types of situations and has developed his Story Brand marketing around this idea.

The more I heard about this tool, the more I wanted to dig deeper and see if I could leverage this in a greater way instead of just scratching the surface.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a basic outline of the hero’s journey.


  • The Ordinary World (the hero going about her everyday life)
  • The Call to Adventure (the day things change that makes it impossible to keep living life as it is)
  • Refusal of the Call (fear of going on the adventure and the change it requires)
  • Meeting with the Mentor (someone who has been down this road and can give the hero the tools she needs for the adventure)
  • Crossing the First Threshold (she commits to the adventure)


  • Tests, Allies, Enemies (adventures in the new “world”)
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave (preparing for the big test to come)
  • Ordeal (hits bottom with the confrontation of her biggest fear)
  • Reward (overcomes her fear)


  • The Road Back (usually involves a chase scene or battle, things have been shaken up and are different now)
  • Resurrection (the hero appears to die or suffers some sort of figurative death before coming back to life in a transforming experience)
  • Return with the Elixir (a physical or psychological gift that the hero can now give to those around her because of her experiences)

While these terms seem mythic, when you dig a bit deeper, you can see how they apply in many stories in some shape or form.

What are some tools that you return to again and again to help shape your writing?

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