Screenwriting and Hero’s Journey: Building Great Characters
By Kal Bishop

The Hero’s Journey is the template upon which the vast majority of successful stories and Hollywood blockbusters are based upon – understanding this template is a priority for story or screenwriters.

The Hero’s Journey:

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

· Gives the writer more structural elements than simply three or four acts, plot points, mid point and so on.

· Interpreted metaphorically, laterally and symbolically, allows an infinite number of varied stories to be created.

The Hero’s Journey is also a study of repeating patterns in successful stories and screenplays. It is compelling that screenwriters have a higher probability of producing quality work when they mirror the recurring patterns found in successful screenplays.

Great Characters

The first step to building great characters is to outline your story according to the Hero’s Journey. During the macro outline you will see characters emerge and during the micro outline they will develop.

Beyond the above, there are a few processes that successful screenwriters use. Specifically, these techniques are (more often than not) used during the initial Call to Adventure stage:

The Hero’s Ordinary World: In War of the Worlds (2005), we meet Ray Ferrier at work and at home.

The Hero’s Backstory: In Midnight Cowboy (1969), Joe Buck sets off for New York almost immediately – his inner challenges and back-story are revealed through flashbacks.

The Hero’s True Nature: In Gladiator (2000), Maximus takes time to feel the tall grass.

The Hero’s Motivations: In Goodfellas (1990), the first sequences explain why Henry wanted to be part of the gangster family.

The Hero’s Status: In Spiderman (2002), nobody wants to sit next to Peter Parker.

The Hero’s Inner Challenge: In Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), we learn that Indiana is afraid of snakes.

The Hero’s Outer Challenge: In Spiderman (2002), Peter must overcome the Green Goblin.

The Hero’s Romantic Challenge: In Spiderman (2002), Peter must win over Mary Jane.

Simply filling the above boxes provides the screenwriter with enough material to easily fulfil the Call to Adventure stage [and then develop these elements further at later stages].

The detailed, complete deconstruction and the Complete 188 stage Hero’s Journey and FREE 17 stage sample and other story structure templates can be found at

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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. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. 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 at

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