There is an unlimited number of stories out there – with a very similar backbone.
It’s not a secret that George Lucas looked at the work of Joseph Campbell (as well as Japanese cinema and some amazing WWII dog fight movies) as he was writing Star Wars. Campbell was a mythologist with a background in medieval literature and Arthurian legends. His education and travels in Europe and America in the 1920s and 1930s led him to theorize that myths are the result of humankind’s need to explain our reality – be it social, cosmological, spiritual, or psychological. He went on to write numerous books on the subject, examining myths from all over the globe. He wrote extensively on what he coined as the monomyth or hero’s journey.
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
The monomyth can be found in the creative process that’s used for everything from Greek myths to modern television shows. In an attempt to simplify that further writer Dan Harmon (yes, that Dan Harmon) created a basic structure that revolves around the rhythms of life and death, psychology, and society and culture to create a large number of the stories we tell.
- A character is in a zone of comfort,
- But they want something.
- They enter an unfamiliar situation,
- Adapt to it,
- Get what they wanted,
- Pay a heavy price for it,
- Then return to their familiar situation,
- Having changed.
This structure can be found in your favorite movies, books, comics, and songs (even when not taking the lyrics into account – listen to any film score) of all genres. This video from Will Schoder explains it how this works structure using a prime example of a hero’s journey: Star Wars.