Hero’s Journey – Refusal of the call

Refusal of the call

The Hero has received the Call to Adventure but instead of accepting it, he refuses.

This is another way to introduce conflict and reverse expectations for the audience. For example, we know exactly what Rocky is about from the poster and the trailer before we see it but when Rocky is offered the shot at the champ by Jergens “Would you be interested in fighting Apollo Creed for the heavyweight championship of the world?” Rocky replies “No.” (Note the B story in the film is the fight the A story is the love story between Rocky and Adrian which is why this refusal happens half way into the film)

In Raider’s of the lost Ark when the Army Intelligence meet with Indiana Jones to give him the Call- Find the Ark of the covenant – Musgrove “Obviously we’ve come to the right men. You seem to know all about this Tannis.” Indy replies “No, no, not really. Ravenwood is the real expert.” But this refusal doesn’t last long, not even to the end of the conversation.

Refusal of the call in two Natalie Portman films which are not as direct as the above examples.


The call to adventure in Thor is for him to replace Odin as king but a refusal of the call in this instance cannot be expressed as Thor having doubt or being afraid or deeming himself not worthy. His character is both courageous and confident. In this example, refusal of the call is represented by the way Thor reacts when faced by his first challenge. Instead of being a ‘wise’ king who doesn’t seek war, he attacks the Frost Giants in direct defiance of his father. Thus he has put the lives of Asgardians in danger and refused the call of being a wise king.

Black Swan

The Call to Adventure arises when lead role for Black Swan becomes available. She’s desperate to do the role, so when the opportunity arises she wants to do it. (No refusal) But during the tryouts she is a brilliant White Swan but cannot perform the Black Swan. She can’t do it, she isn’t able to answer the call, she’s not ready yet for the challenge. Interestingly she puts on lipstick and attempts to seduce the director but instead she feels the director is taking advantage of her and she bites him. Again, she refuses to do what is necessary to get the role. (A clever use of irony comes into play here when that is the exact thing that gets her the role)

Another good use of Refusal of the Call is to use it to create greater conflict for the hero by having him refuse at first but then use something else which forces his hand so he must commit to the journey.

Breakdown of Refusal of the call


Definition – to decline to accept, give or allow something

Synonyms – decline, react, respond, disobey, resist, reject, pass on, bounce, defy, escape, fail


Definition – need, cause for action

Synonyms – alarm, signal, justification, necessity, obligation, scream, signal, peep, roar, awaken, appeal to, summon, warning

Reasons for refusal

1. Not ready

2. Unwilling

3. Unprepared

4. Fear

5. Lacks confidence

6. Unsure

7. Overwhelmed

8. Modesty

9. Secrecy

How to use in your script

Look at the Refusal of the Call stage in your script. -Do you have one? – Does  it suit your hero’s character or have you just put it in because it’s listed as stage and you thought you should put it in? – Is it as creative a refusal as you can possibly make it? – Does it increase conflict? – Do you get anything out of the refusal? – Does it make the task ahead seem harder?


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