Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Plotting Fiction: the Hero's Journey
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2hr seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay of 1,500 words  A critical essay examining the application of one or more of the stages of the hero's journey in a single text.  25%
Semester Assessment Essay of 3,500 words  A creative portfolio of one complete narrative  75%
Supplementary Assessment Resit Assessment  Resubmit failed elements and/or make good any missing elements 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1.Demonstrate an understanding of narrative structure in fiction.

2. Utilise a variety of techniques for the structuring of longer works of prose.

3. Analyse and evaluate, through critical prose, the structure of other texts and identify its impact on a reader's experience.

4. Distinguish between the functional use of structure and its innovative application, and evaluate the difference in texts.

5. Improve their writing in response to criticism.

Brief description

This module will acquaint students with the creative and critical concept of narrative structures and the study of narratology. In addition to the writing craft and techniques it will offer, the module will prepare students for writing extended pieces of prose for The Writing Project in their final year.


Through the close examination of one form of narrative structure students will be able to respond to the demands and process of structure, identifying where specific steps are appropriately used or ignored by contextual examples, and self-reflectively analyse the structure of their own writing.


Week 1: Introduction to Narratalogy and The Hero's Journey
We will introduce the conecept of structural analysis of story, from its early beginnings of Aristotle to its development by Russian Formalists, and beyond. and discuss why we study structure - how a critical awareness of this part of the writing process can both aid and potentially hinder a writer. Introduce The Hero's Journey through the cultural analysis of mythological structures and then contrast this more abstract approach to Chritopher Vogler's how-to style in The Writer's Journey - how useful are writing guides? Can they be dangerous or formulaic?
Consider Robert McKee's concept of universal forms over formulas, and principles over rules, shown in his text Story.

Weekly tasks will be to develop a long piece fo prose that either a) engages with the stage(s) of The Hero's Journey discussed that week, or b) produce half a page of critical discussion as why those stages were not appropriate for their particular text.

Week 2: The Ordinary World
Discuss this opening part of the hero's journey using clips from well-known works of genre film, such as Jurassic Park and Titanic. Students will analyse the importance of equilibrium at the beginning of stories and how it forms the foundation of everything that follows. Techniques for the foreshadowing of later plot points will be explored.

Week Three: Call to Adventure and Refusal of the Call.
Students will identify The Call to Adventure using textual examples from a number of Crime novels. The discussion will then develop as to how and why it is used to move a plot forward. An emphasis on the multiplicity of the form of The Call, and its subsequent Refusal, will expand the critical and creative decisions regarding student’s own narratives. Further textual examples from Romance novels will reinforce this multiplicity in approach.

Week Four: Meeting with the Mentor & Crossing the First Threshold.
The proto-typical mentor figure will be explored and critiqued with an awareness of the danger of cliche when narrative structure is used knowingly by writers. Techniques of how to avoid re-using old tropes will be discussed. The First Threshold provides the first moment of transition in the structure. The importance of both narrative and physical movement will be examined – and the benefits of a structural approach to maintain pacing will be analysed. Examples for both areas will be drawn from Science Fiction texts and films.

Week Five: Test, Allies, Enemies.
Students will consider the challenge of presenting a hero with appropriate obstacles, and the effect of such obstacles being too easy or too difficult. The discussion will expand to a wider debate of the function of testing a hero, why readers enjoy this part of the narrative structure, and what cultural significance it has in the western psyche. Historical Fiction texts will be used to illustrate.

Week Six: Approach to the Inmost Cave.
This stage is often a lull in a narrative's tension that can include courtship rituals, preparation scenes, and another threshold to cross. Students will examine the importance of the slower moments in narratives. The timing and length of the Approach is a matter of structural finesse that the session will explore through both successful and weaker examples drawn from Young Adult novels.

Week Seven: The Ordeal.
This session will explore the significant differences between this point of major crisis in the structure and the later climax. By examining Ordeals taken from Thriller texts students will find sites of comparison between a number of approaches and timings for the Ordeal. The importance of death at this stage of the structure, that can be either symbolic or literal or witnessed, will be critically analysed – again with a helpful awareness of culturally generated narrative priorities and differences.

Week Eight: Reward and The Road Back.
The expectation of Reward following an ordeal is heavily embedded in our stories, and has far reaching ramifications. Students will examine the possible relationship between the material rewards presented to heroes and the western post-industrial work ethic. Other forms of reward will also be analysed – in particular the male hero’s reward of the love-interest that has been a source of critical debate. As few heroes choose to remain in the Special World, despite its charms, students will consider the human drive to return home, and explore more abstract interpretations of how 'home' is constructed. Examples will be taken from the Fantasy genre.

Week Nine: The Resurrection and Return with the Elixir.
The climax of the structure, students will consider this final moment of death, rebirth, and sacrifice. The religious connotations will be examined and the cultural effect of the continual recycling of the hero-as-Christ will be discussed. Horror texts have some of the most pronounced and climactic Resurrections, and the session will explore why. The Return with the Elixir is a moment of community that, along with The Ordinary World, frames the narrative. The hero shares their lesson, be it tragic, one of love, or a force of healing. Issues of western individualism and its evolving relationship to communities will be discussed through examples taken from Chick Lit texts.

Week Ten: Beyond the Hero's Journey.
This final session will consider alternatives to the Hero’s Journey structure. Students, now with a full understanding of the structure, will explore types of story that might resist or be inappropriate for such a narrative form. Alternative examples will be critically discussed and sites for subversion will be identified through a number of theoretical frameworks, including Feminism and Post-Modernism. Students will leave the session with an appreciation of the multiplicity of story-telling and aware of the Hero's Journey as just one type of narrative, albeit a very successful one.

Contact hours - 20
Creative portfolio writing/research - 50 hours
Critical essay writing/research - 20 hours
Seminar preparation, independent research / reading: 110 hours

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication in the form of writing porfolios. Oral communication through seminars.
Improving own Learning and Performance Through independent reading, research, time mangaement, and creative writing.
Information Technology Through the use of digital resources useful for creative work.
Personal Development and Career planning Increase understanding of the commercial field of fiction and developing the skills to produce appropriate work for commercial publication.
Problem solving Develop the ability to evaluate the separate stages of the hero's journey structure and its relation to the student's work.
Research skills Explore the application of the structure in unfamiliar texts and engage with relevant critical and process-focussed debates.
Subject Specific Skills A detailed and conceptual comprehension of structure and its reltionship with content in longer works of fiction; an ability to de-construct narrative into its formal, working parts; practical proficiency in the application of structure and its effect on the writing process.
Team work Through workshop group activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6