The Classic Model or the Hero’s Model Each Have Unique Advantages
So, with my two debut series coming out this year, Lord of Columbia and Comeback Kid, the latter of which is simply the working title, I started this journey a few years back and since fell in love with writing.
Like many writers, I love writing multiple genres, but I also like exploring and writing in multiple story models. Two models I’ve researched are the Hero’s Journey and the Classic Model.
The Classic Model
Let’s begin with the shorter of the two. The Classic Model is used in a few short steps and is less complex than the Hero’s Journey, which is composed of twice as many. The classic model can be set up as follows:
1) Terrible Trouble: The main character or characters are plunged into some kind of terrible trouble. This can be established early, as on page one, or shortly thereafter, but make sure you start with it near the beginning and avoid throat-clearing, or in other words, just get to the story. Some call this the inciting incident.
2) Surface Problems: As described in step one, the surface problems must erupt to further the conflict. So, begin with the terrible trouble, or inciting incident, which leads to further incident, and the main character(s) must lose more games than they’re winning. We can have small victories, but the overall victory, or victory and defeat, can’t be established here, or the story just ended.
3) Resolution: This is where the story ends, and for many, it may mean one win and one loss. Some call this a Story-Worthy Problem, which is solved in the end. For instance, what did the character learn about him or herself? What did they gain? What did they lose? What did they discover?
An Example of the Classic Model
Les Edgerton loves pointing to the silver-screen to relay the classic model in the movie Thelma and Louise.
What’s the inciting incident?
When Thelma asks her controlling husband, Darryl, if she can accompany Louise on a weekend getaway. It’s established early, and the viewer immediately spots the trouble in Darryl’s disrespectful nature.
We get to the surface problems, which continually get worse throughout the book. Thelma has an incident with a man named Harlan, whom Louise subsequently kills. Now, they’re on the run from the law, and wish to travel from Arkansas to Oklahoma to Mexico. They come across a drifter, who’s recently broken his parole.
When Louise gets her life’s savings transferred to her, the drifter, J.D., steals the savings and flees, prompting the two to rob a convenience store, as the FBI gets closer to catching the women. They’re pulled over for speeding in New Mexico and are forced to overpower the state trooper. They’re stalked by a trucker and destroy the fuel tanker he’s hauling.
Finally, the resolution comes when they’re cornered by the FBI, and ultimately end by driving Louise’s Ford Thunderbird over a cliff, presumably leading to their deaths.
What did they gain in the resolution?
Freedom from all the men who’s harmed them.
And of course, they presumably died in the process, losing their lives, though this is ultimately left up to the viewer.
The Hero’s Journey
This one’s been one of my favorites since I first came across it in 2012. The Hero’s Journey comes in a few more steps, and it’s a little more complex, as there are several characters involved here.
I’ve been fascinated with this structure, and it’s always fun to speak of and share.
Without further ado:
1) Ordinary World: The hero is living their ordinary life, with no knowledge of the adventures on which they’re about to embark. Life is normal, everyday, and no reason for anything to change.
2) Call to Adventure: This is where the hero receives their first call to action. It can be anything, like a simple conversation or even an event on TV. Nothing crazy, but it raises concern in the hero.
3) Refusal to the Call: The hero refuses to accept the calling. Something is holding the hero back, like personal anxiety about the call, or personal doubt. Perhaps it’s too big of a challenge?
4) Meeting the Mentor: This is where the hero is given something valuable. It could be a type of training, or weapon of some sort that will help the hero in their quest.
5) Crossing the First Threshold: This is where the hero begins their quest and is ready to act and begin change. They’re crossing the threshold from the world they know to the and into the unknown. The hero commits to the challenge.
6) Series of Tests: As the name implies, this is where the hero meets allies, enemies, and obstacles thrown in front of them. Each challenge must be overcome. In the classic model, this can be related to the surface problems that erupt. The hero will find out who are their true friends and who are their enemies.
7) Approaching the Innermost Cave: The hero prepares to leap into the unknown. They’re taking the plunge here. Perhaps they face some doubts again, as they’re now about to go head to head with the ultimate test. Here, the hero learns skills and finds experience in preparation for this ultimate test.
8) Ordeal: This is a serious test for our hero. They must take their experiences and skills learned in the innermost cave to undertake this ultimate challenge and emerge victorious. Here, the hero gains some sort of resurrection or rebirth that will garner them insight to reach their end. It’s the ultimate make-or-break for the hero.
9) Seizing the Sword: The hero is now transformed and receives the reward, emerging from the ordeal as a new person, which will commence their journey back to the ordinary world. Despite the success, the next portion of the journey is about to begin, which won’t get any easier.
10) The Road Back: As implied above, the Road Back is the reverse to the call to action. The hero must now re-embark on their journey, in reverse, from the new world of adventure back to the ordinary world.
11) Resurrection: Here is the ultimate climax, where the hero faces their most dangerous encounter, the final battle. The outcome far outweighs the hero’s personal objectives. Everything rests on their shoulders, and a severe outcome may prove consequential to the hero and the ordinary world. The hero, against all odds, succeeds, emerging from the battle fully reborn as a new person.
12) Return: The final reward in which the hero returns as a changed individual. The return means a fresh breath of hope not only for them, but for all. It provides resolution for the hero and the key characters in the story. The hero will return, but will never be the same, despite being back in the ordinary world.
Many examples can be used regarding the Hero’s Journey, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, many Books in the Bible, and other avenues. Chances are, you’ve come across one of these works, and when reading or viewing such stories, keep a close eye on the twelve steps I’ve laid out above.
I’d like to thank all of my readers for their time, and if you found this article that’s been written several times over the past 2,000+ years somehow original, feel free to share it! Please come back soon.