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  • Writer's pictureRussell F. Hirsch

The Hero’s Journey–Ordinary Worlds

Let’s begin!

Authors and screenwriters often refer to the Beginning, Middle, and End of stories as Acts 1, 2 & 3.

Over the next few days, using the ideas of the Hero’s Journey, we will look in more detail at Beginnings or ‘First Acts.’ The list at the end of the last post introduced the 10 key stages of a hero’s journey plot. Here they are again: The first three steps typically comprise a First Act. Today, I’ll explore Step #1, where we get a sense of the main character on the cusp of adventure in their “Ordinary World.”

Stages of the Hero’s Journey

Beginning (Act 1)

Middle (Act 2)

End (Act 3)

9. Climax

10. Resolution

Ordinary World

A hero’s journey thrusts the main character out of their everyday situation into a new one, which they must deal with over the course of the story. But to properly appreciate what a shock that will be, we need to see them in their ordinary, everyday environment to begin with.

Note that the hero’s ordinary world may be like ours or they may live in a strange and imaginary place. But even if the hero lives somewhere that seems extraordinary to us, they are used to it.

If all you’ve ever known is a planet with two suns, even it can seem pretty bland!

Likewise, the hero might seem ordinary (or perhaps their own extraordinariness is the norm for them—like Artemis Fowl, the 12 year-old criminal mastermind in Eoin Colfer’s books). Either way, we get a glimpse into their everyday life and chances are that even at this early point, we see some skills that will help them down the road, and maybe some weaknesses, which they will either succumb to or overcome as the story continues.

It never hurts to be a good shot.

It never hurts to be a good shot.

In fairy tales, the ordinary world is almost always one that features an abusive domestic situation. Like Cinderella, the main character may have enormous potential, but it is yet to be unlocked because they are stifled and degraded in their everyday life.

Many children’s novels carry on this trend today. In these stories, the hero is bombarded with messages that reinforce that there is nothing extraordinary about them or their world—messages which the next stage, the Call to Adventure, is about to blow out of the water!

Or is there...?

Or is there…?

Thank you purveyors of fine pictures!


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