Thursday, October 23, 2014

Plotting Your Hero's Emotional Journey: Plot-to-Page method

You may already be familiar with the Hero's Inner Journey:

What you may not realize is how this ties into EVERY type of novel - not just epic fantasy.

I found an absolutely fabulous post by Allen Palmer that brakes these steps down into 12 easily digestible ones, which I highly recommend reading. To sum it up (no really - read the post; my summary doesn't do it justice):

The hero is:

  • Incomplete (Ordinary World)
  • Two dimensions to the hero's incomplete world: something they’re aware of (a want), and something not aware (their flaw).
  • Unsettled (Call to Adventure)
  • A problem or an opportunity. Suddenly their world just isn’t the same any longer.

  • Resistant (Refusal of the Call)
  • Hero is resistant to the problem or opportunity. If the hero does want the call, others will express the fear for them.

  • Encouraged (Meeting with the Mentor)
  • Hero is “Encouraged” into reconsidering the challenge thrown down. Note: the “Mentor” doesn’t have to be old or wise, just someone to push hero into next step.

  • Committed (Crossing the first threshold)
  • Hero is “committed” to tackling the goal, problem or opportunity with which they’ve been presented.

  • Disoriented (Tests, Allies & Enemies)
  • Hero begins to pursue goal or fix problem & world is upside down. Hero challenged (don't make these too big of challenges - leave room to escalate at Ordeal and Resurrection). Could work out who they can trust and who they should be wary of in new world

  • Inauthentic (The Approach)
  • As hero begins tackling the problem or opportunity, it is done so with the hero's main flaw still in action - tackling this inauthentically. Often where friendships are forged and love interests introduced, BUT Hero is “inauthentic” – reader is reminded of exactly what the hero’s flaw is.

  • Confronted (The Ordeal)
  • The hero is “confronted” with their flaw - a mirror is held up to them and flaw pointed out.

  • Reborn (The Reward)
  • Old, flawed Hero dies, and “reborn” Hero emerges. Transformation revealed through perceptions of others (this may be a moment, as there's still the next step of...)

  • Desperate (Road Back)
  • Hero must choose between what they want and what they need (to act on Reborn or not) - stuck between a rock and a hard place. To change and confront flaw, but perhaps that is at the risk of losing something else.

  • Decisive (Resurrection – the Climax)
  • Hero proves that they have been transformed…or not (either decided to change or remain the same - a tragedy, hero remains the same and there are consequences). Hero MUST be the active agent here; can’t be rescued by external forces because that would deny ultimate character test to draw on new strength or fall back into weaknesses

  • Complete (Return with the Elixir)
  • The HEA scene

The first thing, of course, is making sure your hero/heroine progresses through each step.

But WHEN should these steps occur? In other words -  where in your plot arc should these development points fall?

Building off of my previous post with the Plot Dot Test, this is how your hero/heroine's emotional journey should progress:

I used a 125 page novel in the above; yours is likely different. So to set this proportionally to your novel, use the following rough* percentage guidelines:

Incomplete (~1%)
Unsettled (~4%)
Resistant (~8%)
Encouraged (~12%)
Committed (~16%)
Disoriented (~20%)
Inauthentic (~28%)
Confronted (~50%) - midpoint!
Reborn (~62%)
Desperate (~72%)
Decisive (~88%) - climax!
Complete (~98%)

*i.e., don't freak out if you're 5% off - the important parts are hitting these moments, and the decisive moment being in the climax.

How to figure this out using your manuscript:

  1. Locate the page number each journey step starts
  2. Divide page # by total pages to get step %
  3. Place dots on lined paper
  4. X: page (can be by 5’s or 10’s), Y: %
  5. Graph

Does it look like a character arc? Go back and revise as needed!


  1. Thank you so much, Natalie! What a fantastic post...understanding how to apply the hero's journey to our stories is so important...and you've made it easier to do that. :)

  2. Thanks, this is extremely useful!

  3. I gain a new insight from every take on the Hero's Journey I read. Thanks.