Two Ways To Be A Writer

If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel and didn’t know where to begin, you might try looking for a formula or recipe, and simply plug in the words.

Yes, there are some basic formulas for writing fiction. Recently I have found two.

The first is called “The Hero’s Journey.” Various writers have put forth theories on hero-myth narratives (think Indiana Jones). One of the most popular came from the mind of Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, who specialized in comparative mythology and comparative religion. Campbell’s approach can be summarized as follows —

One Interpretation of
The Hero’s Journey

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (

Campbell refined this concept into three acts or sections —

  1. Departure or Separation
  2. Initiation 
  3. Return

These three were subdivided into 17 possible stages. Of course, not all hero’s journeys need to contain all the stages; some may focus on only one stage, and others may have them in a different order. For an enumeration of the three acts and their applicable stages, as well as other interpretations, follow the Wikipedia link above.

If all this sounds like overthinking, the computer-animation studio Pixar is given credit for developing a six-step storytelling process:

1. Once upon a time there was . . .
2. Every day . . .
3. One day . . .
4. Because of that . . .
5. And because of that . . .
6. Until finally . . .

Suprisingly, I ran across this method in a July 12, 2020 New Yorker article entitled “How to Plan a Space Mission” by David W. Brown ( If the commonality between fiction writing and real science eludes you, think of it this way: The number of potential space missions is virtually unlimited, which means there’s always a scramble to claim scarce resources. Any mission not only must be planned, it must be sold, and what better way to prove worth than through creative storytelling?

Or you could do what I do — write whatever pops into your head.

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