The Hero’s Journey

4 min readMay 20, 2021

Basics of Story Structure

NOTE: This is part of a series on story structure that I decided to do. I will be collecting them all up and putting them into a book once I’m finished.

The reason why I’m covering this structure next is that it’s one of the more popular structures. You probably are already familiar with it, if not consciously then unconsciously, because you’ve consumed this structure so often in western literature.

You’ll see that this structure has something in common with the three-act structure, namely, they can both be broken down into three sections. The three sections are different and have different focuses, but as you’ll see, there is more than one structure that comes in three parts.

I’m going to repeat the note from the introduction here:

Though the term hero is gendered, this structure is NOT. A hero may be a kickass female, just as a heroine may be male. Or either could be an alien with five different genders. These are the terms that have been applied to these structures, not the gender that must fulfill them.

The start of the hero’s journey is the call to action. As with all stories, the main character must be emancipated from their home, their family structure, their current life, before they can start their journey. (This is why YA stories are frequently told with the main character as an orphan because they have to be free from that structure first.)

Frequently, the hero may refuse the call. She doesn’t want to leave her comfy palace or even the leaky boat which is all she’s ever known. However, circumstances force the hero to begin. Often, at this point, the hero has some supernatural aid, either a familiar, a talisman, a magical helmet, whatever.

Then, the hero crosses the threshold, like when Sam knows if he takes one step further, it’ll be the farthest from home than he’s ever been. It’s the marker between home and adventure. There may or may not be guardians at the threshold, testing the hero’s resolve to push ahead.

After this begins the descent. This may or may not be a physical descent into a cave or other dark land. Here, the hero’s adventures truly begin. There are many trials during this phase (lots of try-fail loops) that the hero must overcome…


Leah Cutter sold her first short story back in 1997, and continues to write and sell both her fiction and non-fiction. She supports herself with her writing.