Illustration by Anya Milioutina aka @amili
To me. I have explained it to me in a way that makes sense to me, not as a circle, but as a deep dark lake with deep dark water and a humongous scary monster sitting in a deep dark cave smack in the middle of the lake's bottom. Anya magically transformed my quick flimsy sketch into the pretty diagram above, with the heroine (of course) jumping into said lake, about to meet her near death.
Okay, let me step back a little. I have only started learning about this whole hero's concept recently, but I can already see it everywhere. Of course. It's the journey of life, in a way. And the journey of learning. We have to come close to death to learn anything, it seems. Stubborn idiots. Anyway. It does look like a boob in crosscut, doesn't it? The reason I made it this way is I can picture it easily in my head when I write and read, and if the simple three-act structure needs more subplots, then I can just break up one of the curves into more curves, like I did for the cave at the bottom. It could be simple, with no additional curve, or it could be more complex. This way any story can fit into this model. Precisely what I wanted to make sense of it.
And the best part? Now subplots make sense too. For the general plot there could be many subplots, the more important ones have more curves, the less important ones fewer. But ALL of them have to have at least three curves, e.g., three acts. And if any subplot at all is present in my book, it MUST have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Otherwise I need to cut it out.
I picture the Hero's Journey as literally having to step into cold dark water:
- You take a walk, unaware of the danger ahead.
- You stumble on a way down to the lake.
- You look at it and shiver, "No fucking way I'm going in there."
- Baba Yaga shows up, tells you there are riches in the lake (a bottle of vodka).
- You commit to it. "Fine. I'll do it." You jump in.
- You're wet and cold, you meet weird floating alcoholics: friends, enemies, mentors.
- You swim up to a dark cave where the bottle is (and a monster)
- You get in. Your air runs out! The monster nearly kills you! You change into a fish! Magically.
- You grab the bottle of vodka and swim up. Yes! You did it!
- You get out of the lake. Fuck! You can't breathe! You're a fish now, remember?
- You make it halfway up, the monster is after you. You kill him with the bottle. It breaks.
- You shed your fish skin, but alas! The vodka is gone! But you gained wisdom.
What's the wisdom you gained?
DON'T FUCKING DIVE INTO DEEP DARK LAKES FOR VODKA, IDIOT.