The Hero’s Journey Is Not A Formula – Christopher Vogler


Film Courage: How does The Hero’s Journey apply to storytelling?

Christopher Vogler, Hollywood development executive, screenwriter, author and educator: The Hero’s Journey applies to storytelling because it is storytelling. It’s the way that we have been programmed. I would say to understand what a story is and this is a difficult question to say is this something that we have learned socially because we’ve seen so many stories that we have formed an idea that every story more or less follows this journey pattern or is it something that is deeper than that that’s hardwired into the human nervous system. That’s kind of where I go. It certainly reinforced by seeing thousands of examples but I think that we would recognize The Hero’s Journey and respond to it in the organs of our bodies even if we weren’t acculturated to it, even if we didn’t have the many examples we would recognize it and respond to it and and this again goes back to the stick figure idea. If you just draw stick figures if they have any kind of desire or wish whether it’s I’ve got a knife and I’m going to stab this guy or I want to give some of my food to a starving bird, we get on board and we want what they want or we’re watchful Will they do this terrible thing?or Will they do this good thing? We just can’t help but be involved, so that tells me I think that The Hero’s Journey is the internal wiring diagram we have about stories and that it’s something very, very deep. 

Film Courage: Is The Hero’s Journey a formulaic blueprint for writing a screenplay? 

Chris: The question comes up what do you call this thing The Hero’s Journey?: 

Is it a formula? 

Is it a pattern? 

Is it a mode? 

Is it a paradigm? 

There are many words that have been applied to it. I think the word that’s being used a lot these days to describe other things as an algorithm and I think that’s one good way to look at it. That an algorithm is a sort of a numerical way of analyzing things and planning how things will progress in a system but I think The Hero’s Journey is something like that. I don’t think formula is a good name for it because that implies that it’s like a cookbook recipe and that anybody who puts it up there is saying Well you have to do this and you have to do that in this sequence and then this can only be the next thing…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

See it on Amazon here

BUY THE BOOK – THE WRITER’S JOURNEY: Mythic Structure for Writers

See it on Amazon here

BUY THE BOOK – MEMO FROM THE STORY DEPARTMENT: Secrets of Structure and Character


Christopher Vogler made documentary films as an Air Force officer before studying film production at the University of Southern California, where he encountered the ideas of mythologist Joseph Campbell and observed how they influenced the story design of the first Star Wars movie. He worked as a story consultant in the development departments of 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures and Animation, and Paramount Pictures, and wrote an influential memo on Campbell’s Hero’s Journey concept that led to his involvement in Disney’s Aladdin, The Lion King and Hercules. After the publication of The Writer’s Journey, he had a hand in developing the stories of many productions, including Disney’s remake of 101 Dalmatians, Fox’s Fight Club, Courage Under Fire, Volcano, The Thin Red Line and many others. Vogler lives in Los Angeles, California. 





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