Have you read this book?
You might not recognize the cover. I didn’t at first, because it doesn’t match my copy. Of course, mine is only the second edition. This one’s the THIRD edition. Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey is like the energizer bunny–it keeps getting printed and printed and printed…
There are plenty of reasons why. First, Vogler has a lot of important things to say. His book is based on Joseph Campbell’s ideas about the hero’s journey, the common storyline in so many myths. Vogler does NOT, as some people seem to fear, advocate writing from a template, a formula. What he does instead is analyze the common elements of all stories, in a way that makes us recognize the patterns and layers we’re all struggling to find in our books and bring to the surface. I have a very specific criteria for a “good” writing book, that I find myself putting it down before I reach the end and rushing back to my story to get all the new ideas onto the page. The Writer’s Journey more than qualifies.
The other big reason is more practical. Basically, if you want to have a discussion about plot, or character, this is your starting point. As an editor, when I talked with a client about what their hero was doing, what the other characters were up to, I’d inevitably find myself talking about Vogler’s book. I’d suggest that, even before they looked at my critique, they should probably pick up a copy of The Writer’s Journey and read it through. This book is also the basis of so many brainstorming sessions I have with my critique groups, whenever we get deep into what our hero is (or isn’t!) doing. Teachers in writing classes point to Vogler’s book, and The Writer’s Journey is referenced in more other writing books than I have time to count. You need to know what all these people are talking about.
I’ll admit that Vogler hasn’t solved the problem of the story middle for me. And, these days, I’m also pushing Les Edgerton’s book Hooked as a must-read companion to The Writer’s Journey. Edgerton builds on Vogler’s ideas, and really hits on the kinds of beginnings we need to be writing today. Still, I find myself going back to Vogler’s book time and time again, when I’m stuck, when I’m trying to figure out WHO my hero is and needs to be, when I’m just trying to get a closer look at the layers of my story.
Whether you’re just starting on your writing path, or you’re already treading strongly along it, I recommend dropping this book into your traveling pack.