Books Magazine

Book Review: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Posted on the 18 July 2013 by Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

Book: The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
Genre: Writing book
Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
Publication date: 2007
Pages: 407

Source: I think it was a Christmas present from my brother (thanks, Dale!)

cover of The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
Summary: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler sets up the concepts of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” as a toolkit for developing stories. The first part describes the archetypal roles that characters can take in the story. The second part describes stories in a grand mythological way by tracing the journey of the hero in everything from Homer’s Odyssey to this week’s blockbuster movies. Mapped onto Aristotle’s Three Act structure, the hero’s journey can aid the writer in creating a plot that is clear and resonates with the reader.

Thoughts: I own more writing books than any other genre. I rarely review them on my blog. The problem is that I almost never read a writing book from cover to cover. I read a little, get an idea, run off to write, and never get back to the book. I decided recently that I really want to finish my writing books when I start them, so I’m making a concerted effort now.

I’ve owned a copy of The Writer’s Journey in all three of its editions and this is the first version, now a clunkster of a book, that I read all the way through. I don’t remember the older editions that well, but I think a lot of the extra material is in the form of essays in the back that illuminate some concepts that go across the stages of the journey.

The Writer’s Journey has faced some criticism for being more about journeys of men than journeys of women. I just used it to plot a story that felt very feminine to me and it worked just fine. “Journey,” of course, can be used metaphorically to mean an inner journey and that made this concept work in my context. I have a couple of more books that explore the journey more fully from the feminine perspective, so I’ll let you know if I think differently when I’m done reading those.

The other obvious criticism of approaching stories in this way is that it can turn into a kind of factory-made method for constructing stories. When I use this, though, I feel like there’s lots of room for my creativity — up to and including breaking the structure in some way. When I’m feeling lost and muddled in my writing (which is often), I can use the help of all the structure that I can get.

I love the Tarot card like illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. They fit so well with the mythical overtones of this book that make The Writer’s Journey such a calming pleasure to read.

Appeal: Writers working in any genre where stories are told will find The Writer’s Journey a useful companion on the trek.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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