Before we begin, practice healthy creative habits: Clear your space of clutter, set aside some time to focus and spend 2-3 minutes doing your Daily Free Writing before you begin. See Lesson 2 for more about DFW.

Does your character change?

Today we’re going to think about our main character – whether it’s a fiction book, a memoir, a biography, or any kind of book that tells a story, there has to be one thing: change.

Things that are not change: stuff happening to your character. Your character doing things. Your character going places. You can have a plot-heavy book, packed full of action and have a stagnant main character. You can have a dynamic main character and have side characters that are more like furniture: flat and they get moved around a lot.

The Hero’s Journey

One of the most famous structures for character growth was written by Joseph Campbell, who studied the power of myth. He developed a concept known as the monomyth, from which all myths arise. I like this way of looking at character development because I recognize the format from so many movies, it’s almost intuitive at this point. Also it doesn’t put all the focus on just the main character, it also highlights the people the “hero” needs to meet along the way and their jobs.

Here is the basic concept:


I like to think about it like this:

1. Establishing the world and context.
2. Something happens to require change.
3. They fight against it, but ultimately feel compelled.
4. Someone helps them get started.
5. They take the leap.
6. They are tested.
7. The challenges start.
8. It gets harder.
9. They make it and are rewarded in some way.
10. They now have to make their way forward. (Or home, maybe not literally).
11. They demonstrate they have changed.
12. Conclusion and homecoming (literal or otherwise).

Today’s assignment:

We’re going to write something that will never make it into the book – think of it as “scratch writing”. It won’t make it into your outline either. It’s merely to work through the essential narrative hook of your book whether that’s non-fiction advice, memoir, a fiction novel or otherwise. The hero’s journey may be a useful tool to look at your story but if not, adapt it as you see fit. The main idea is to look at your book from a very high level and start thinking about how you’re keeping people’s interest through out the book, that there’s something at stake either for the main character or the reader.

For example in your memoir, this will happen through the story. Change occurs. It HAS TO OCCUR. And it can’t be easy. The hero’s journey is a good model to challenge your outline and thinking up to this point.

However, if you’re writing a book on how to go vegan in 21 days, then how does it apply? Well the main character is your reader. How do they change? What are the challenges for them? How will they overcome it?

The difference between fiction and non-fiction is typically the way the reader puts themselves into the story. In fiction the reader steps into the shoes of the main character. In non-fiction where it’s an advice or how-to style book, the reader is being spoken to directly, there is no main character. They are going on their own little quest – often to learn something new. You still need to know why they would be motivated to do such a thing and why they need your help, book author, to get there.

So for today’s assignment take a look at your story and outline to date and write the hero’s journey narrative out. It should help to see if there are some areas that you could flesh out better or if you’re neglected to account for enough challenges. From this writing exercise you’ll begin to develop a short list of items to address in your outline. If you have time today, work on those or simply make note of them for later.

NOTE: Don’t forget, there is a final outline review at the end of the course but only if you submit it on the last day. Be sure to use this time to get your outline as close to completed as possible!

1Daily Free Writing
2Write your story as the Hero's Journey
3Share in the FB group (optional)
4Address items in your outline that are triggered from this writing assignment