Hero's Journey - The First Threshold

Beyond three and four act story structure, lies the Hero's Journey.

The Hero's Journey is the most usable story structure consisting of at least 106 stages and the template for successful contemporary stories, from Star Wars to Al Pacino Scarface to The Incredibles to War of the Worlds to The Dirty Dozen to Midnight Cowboy.The Hero's Journey is a valuable template because:

a) It attempts to tap into unconscious expectations the audience has regarding what a story is and how it should be told.

b) It gives the writer more structural elements than simply three or four acts, plot points, mid point and so on.

c) Interpreted metaphorically and symbolically, it allows an infinite number of varied stories to be created.

One (usually critical) stage of the journey is the First Threshold.

The First Threshold encompasses the Far Away, Entrance, Threshold Guardian, Belly of the Whale, Trials, Allies and Enemies, Escape and other elements. Thus writers who believe that the First Threshold is a simple affair are dead wrong.

The significance of the First Threshold lies in the fact that it is a point of no return. Once the Hero crosses it, there is no coming back. A simple analogy is that of committing murder - once you have killed somebody, you are changed, you are not the same person, you cannot go back. This analogy also indicates that the First Threshold need not be a physical place?it can be a state or similar.

The Hero is accompanied to the First Threshold, usually a Mentor. But it can be any person or archetype. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the Hero is accompanied by a Shape Shifter.

Hero et al stop a distance away from the First Threshold. Here, the Hero is told that this is a place of danger, of change, of no return. He is told to be wary. The crossing is usually signified by a physical barrier. In Lawrence of Arabia it is a railway line.

Upon entering the First Threshold, strange, magical and unfamiliar creatures are seen. These are representative of the New World the Hero is about to enter.

Further into the First Threshold, Hero et al are stopped by a Threshold Guardian, someone of some minor authority. Hero et al are questioned and it is up to them to prove their worthiness by passing the Threshold Guardian.

The activity of the First Threshold occurs underground, in darkness. Thus Hero et al enter a dark, underground vicinity of some sort, often a cavern. This is known as the Belly of the Whale.

The entrance to the cavern will be guarded by another figure of authority, who will explain the (new) rules of this place.

Within the cavern, the Hero will undergo a trial. He will pass or be helped to pass it. His assistants in the passing of the trial may be already known to him or may become new allies, for this is a place where new allies and enemies are distinguished and differentiated.

There is much more?

The 106 stage Hero's Journey and other story structure templates can be found at http://www.managing-creativity.com/

You can also receive a regular, free newsletter by entering your email address at this site.

Kal Bishop, MBA


You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and site URL are retained.

You can also receive a regular, free newsletter by entering your email address at this site.

Kal Bishop, MBA


You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and site URL are retained.

Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on http://www.managing-creativity.com/

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