Plot Design & Story Structure: Joseph Campbell vs Christopher Vogler

Joseph Campbell's Hero Cycle

Joseph Campbell’s Hero Cycle

In this article, I will discuss my process for developing plot and share  the incredible tools that I discovered to examine, critique and improve the plot of my novel. You might also want to download this Campbell & Vogler Plot Design Worksheet that will help you design your plot by examining if and how your story follows the hero’s journey.

Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler

The two writer’s classics, Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, cover the various elements of plot and storytelling from two different perspectives. Campbell was an expert in comparative mythology. He looked at stories from around the world and found common themes and plots, and went on to develop theories to describe his discoveries. His views were based largely on inductive reasoning, and his writing is very academic and difficult to access for the average reader. Vogler, on the other hand, is a Hollywood script-writer. His work is based largely on the work of Campbell, although he altered it to fit the standard methods used in Hollywood movies and scriptwriting. His views are suppositions, or educated guesses, about what makes a (Hollywood) story successful, and his writing is very accessible for the average reader.

These two books have been invaluable to me as a writer and I highly recommend them for anyone who is struggling with plot.

Where I got stuck with my plot

I was wading through about 80,000 words of the first draft of my novel and was struggling to fill in key plot holes. I’m not a writer who writes from beginning to end; rather, I jump around and write whatever scene is pressing at me to be written. This is admittedly not the best way to go about it, but it’s my first novel, so I’m not exactly an expert on this yet. So I had all these islands of writing, and when it came time to start tying them all together into one continuous, flowing plot, I found I had a lot of gaps and a lot of questions: Continue reading

How the Inner Critic and Creative Anxiety Cause Writer’s Block

Writing blocks and the inner critic

In my writing group we shared our experiences with the inner critic and how it blocks our writing and creativity. In preparation for the meeting, I researched about this topic and found some books on this topic by Eric Maisel. In this essay I will present what Eric Maisel calls ‘creative anxiety and some methods for overcoming it that you might find helpful.

In the book Toxic Criticism, Maisel talks about the inner critic in Chapter 4, called ‘Silencing Self-Criticism’. He believes that the inner critic is formed when we internalize criticism from outside. He calls that the “moment of  translation”, which is the moment between the external message (or situation or experience) to the internal reaction. His main point in this section of the book is that it is our choice to go from an unfortunate external situation/fact to an internal toxic criticism. He gives three main reasons why we might do this, even thought it’s harmful to us and our creative practice: Continue reading

Fear: a Curse Upon Me

Rutger at the Ready by Barry Shaffer on Flickr

Rutger at the Ready by Barry Shaffer on Flickr

This is an essay about overcoming fear and anxiety using different techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The following topics are covered:

  • What is Your Worst Possible Outcome?
  • A Curse Upon Me: Fear
  • My Journey with Fear
  • Magical Thinking
  • Facing the Worst Possible Outcome
  • The Techniques:
    1. Decatastrophizing
    2. Finding the Good
  • Further Reading

What is Your Worst Possible Outcome?

We spend a lot of our time and energy doing whatever we can to avoid the worst possible outcome, but what if we embraced it instead? What if, instead of running, we turned around and looked it in the eye? What would happen if we embraced the fact that we’re going to die, and it might be cancer, it might be a heart attack and it might be a big accident? What if we make peace with the possibility that our husband or wife could very well leave us one day (yikes!), or maybe we forgot to lock the door, or here’s a big one: we could lose everything we own–to a stock market crash, a fire, or we could get fired from our job. Continue reading