Understanding this template is a priority for story or screenwriters. This is the template you must master if you are to succeed in the craft.
[The terminology is most often metaphoric and applies to all successful stories and screenplays, from The Godfather (1972) to Brokeback Mountain (2006) to Annie Hall (1977) to Lord of the Rings (2003) to Drugstore Cowboy (1989) to Thelma and Louise (1991) to Apocaplyse Now (1979)].
THERE IS ONLY ONE STORY
THE HERO'S JOURNEY:
a) Attempts to tap into unconscious expectations the audience has regarding what a story is and how it should be told.
b) Gives the writer more structural elements than simply three or four acts, plot points, mid point and so on.
c) Gives you a tangible process for building and releasing dissonance (establishing and achieving catharses, of which there are usually four).
d) Gives you a universal structural template upon which you can superimpose your situational story. This is why stories such as Alien (1979), Gladiator (2000), Midnight Cowboy (1969), American Beauty (1999), The Graduate (1967) and many others (all deconstructed at the URL below) appear to be different but are all constructed, almost sequence by sequence, in the same way.
HERO'S JOURNEY TIP OF THE DAY: EVERY GREAT STORY ENDS WITH MULTIPLE CATHARSES
Between the Crossing of the Return Threshold and the Mastery of the Two Worlds, a hell of a lot happens that, astoundingly, is rarely given mention, let alone explanation.
One critical process that completes your story is closure with Multiple Catharses (often at least four). The most successful stories do not just end, they use distinct mechanisms to very carefully build and release emotional tension:
In The Godfather (1972), multiple catharses include a) when Michael shoots the heads of the other families, b) when Michael kills Carlo, c) when Tessio is taken away and d) when the lieutenants finally accept Michael's leadership.
In The Shawshank Redemption (1994), multiple catharses include a) when Andy escapes, b) when Andy steals from the Wardens accounts, c) when the Warden kills himself, d) when Capt. Hadley sobs while being arrested and e) when Red finds Andy on the beach.
In Planet of the Apes (1968), multiple catharses include a) when Taylor et al find human remains in the cave, b) when Dr. Zaius reveals that he knew all along, c) when Dr. Zaius lets Taylor and Nova leave and d) when Taylor finds the statue of Liberty.
Go to http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html for more info on the 188+ stage Hero's Journey....