Review: The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you “spell” a word correctly, you are in effect casting a spell, charging these abstract, arbitrary symbols with meaning and power.

Christopher Vogler’s book is, in effect, a “Hero’s Journey” for dummies, with a screenwriting angle thrown in for good measure. He makes no bones about the fact he’s basing his research on Joseph Campbell’s work, with a touch of Jungian philosophy,, all set against a Hollywood background. This makes sense, though. As any good teacher, Vogler uses a more modern language (film) in order to teach a concept which is thousands of years old.

That all said, I really liked this book. I think it’s got some great things to say about the craft, if not the art, of writing. At no point does Vogler ever suggest this is the only way to write something (in fact, he often goes awkwardly out of his way to insist the opposite). He is very clear about the ideas presented here as starting points, as grand sweeping gestures which fit, someplace, into almost all stories. And I think that’s really the point. All he’s doing is explaining a structure and archtypes, which are born out time after time in all of the examples he chooses (okay, he WAY over uses The Wizard of Oz but it does fit so neatly into pattern he can be forgiven).

The only place he really falters is when he tries to hard to make a metaphor make sense. Yes, there might be symbolism present, but it’s not germane to the concept he’s trying to get across and so, in my mind, diiminishes the actual point, but honestly, that’s just me quibbling. And while the book does focus on screenplays and filmic storytelling, the ideas are universal and can easily be translated to prose or any other kind of storytelling formats.

At the end of the writing day, having a structure is not a bad thing. It’s a skeleton on which to hang your particular tale, something to give it some weight and some support. It’s not going to force you into a cookie-cutter plot, with a guaranteed Hollywood ending. The story is still your own, it’s just the journey we all share.

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