So when you feel like hope is gone,
Look inside you and be strong,
And you’ll finally see the truth,
That a hero lies in you. -Mariah Carey, Hero
I had always thought that there were four possible conflicts in literature: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Self. Recently however, a friend told me that there were actually seven basic plot themes for all storytelling…
The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories is a 2004 book by Christopher Booker that outlines these plot lines in a psychological way. When I read about the seven plots, I realized that they describe the trials and tribulations that we all face. Basically, each of them involves a hero or heroine who is the central character. This person goes through a series of difficult spiritual and/or physical journeys that ultimately end with self-realization. The truth is that every one of us is on a hero’s journey…we are creating the narrative of our life stories through our choices and actions.
As you read the following plot descriptions from Booker, ask yourself which one sounds like an apt description of your Hero’s Journey.
- Overcoming the Monster: Hero sets out to defeat a villain who threatens the hero and his homeland. Examples: Shrek and every James Bond film.
- Rags to Riches: Hero is poor, yet acquires heart’s desires such as power, wealth, and a mate. Hero then loses it all and gains it back after learning a valuable lesson. Examples: Cinderella and Trading Places.
- The Quest: Hero and friends set out to find a treasured object or make it to a special location, encountering obstacles and temptations in their path. Examples: Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Lord of the Rings.
- Voyage and Return: Hero goes to an exotic land and, after defeating the threats it poses, returns having gained wisdom. Examples: Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels.
- Comedy: Hero is a humorous character who triumphs over difficult or ridiculous circumstances, resulting in a cheerful ending. Examples: Bridget Jones Diary, Airplane! and Groundhog Day.
- Tragedy: Hero is actually a villain who experiences a fall from grace and whose death is a happy ending. Example: Breaking Bad.
- Rebirth: Hero is an unlikable character who redeems himself over the course of the story. Examples: A Christmas Carol and Despicable Me.
I think that this last one is a description of my life so far. I’ve had to figure out a lot of things the hard way, and I’m afraid that I haven’t always been a likable character. I intend for the second half of my life to be a great comedy, full of hilarious situations and delightful comrades who believe in and care about me as much as I do them. If you feel lost and need a therapist to help guide you on your hero or heroine’s journey toward self-realization, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando today at 407-443-8862 to make an appointment.