The Hero’s Journey – Apotheosis


Apotheosis is the expansion of consciousness that the hero experiences after defeating a foe.The Hero has the ability to do something which ordinary people can not. They are capable of doing things which their old self could not.

He has discovered his life’s purpose and come to a realization about the world and his position of greatness in it. Now, with his consciousness expanded, he is vastly different from the man he was at the beginning of the journey. He can see things others can’t see and do things others can’t do.

Often this means his focus has shifted from himself and puts the welfare of others above his own. It can happen at the end of the second Act and give him the ability to face the rigours of Act III or it can happen at the end of Act III as part of the climax.

In The Matrix when Neo experiences his Apotheosis, he acknowledges he is The One. Suddenly he is able to see the code and is able to unleash the almighty power he had within him all the time.

Neo becomes The One

Apotheosis – Elevation to devine rank or stature

Role model, saint, ideal, paragon, deification

How to use it in your writing

Has your hero experienced some sort of death, something has ended and a new life can begin?

Has your character had an Ah Ha moment where they have a new level of understanding?

Hero’s Journey Main Page

The Hero’s journey – Atonement with the father

Atonement with the father

The hero must reconcile with the ultimate authority figure in his life. Reconciliation means to end the conflict. The authority figure needs to hand over approval or respect or the hero comes to the realization that the authority figure was right. In the same way sons rebel against their fathers when young but when they get older they understand their father was only trying to help him, they come to understand that the father was right.

The act of atonement brings with it a new level of maturity or understanding to the hero of himself. The hero may need to defeat or gain some sort of mastery over the authority figure or completely submit to it to complete this stage.

Sons have a conflicting relationship with their father, they are desperate for their father’s approval but at the same time they are trying to assert their own manhood over their father. When the child is ready to reconcile with his father he has proved he is ready to make a man out of himself. The atonement marks the end of being a child.

The story of the prodigal son.

A young man asks his father to give him his inheritance before his father has died so that he may enjoy it now. The father agrees and the son travels to a distant land and wastes all the money on extravagant living. He is forced through poverty to take to working as a swineherd, a filthy job, and eventually begins to envy the pigs. He decides to return home, expected to be treated like a servant in the eyes of his father. However his father runs to him and they embrace. All is forgiven.

This is what Joseph Campbell writes about this stage;

“Atonement consists in no more than the abandonment of that self-generated double monster—the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id). But this requires an abandonment of the attachment to ego itself, and that is what is difficult. One must have a faith that the father is merciful, and then a reliance on that mercy. Therewith, the center of belief is transferred outside of the bedeviling god’s tight scaly ring, and the dreadful ogres dissolve. It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, by whose magic (pollen charms or power of intercession) he is protected through all the frightening experiences of the father’s ego-shattering initiation. For if it is impossible to trust the terrifying father-face, then one’s faith must be centered elsewhere (Spider Woman, Blessed Mother); and with that reliance for support, one endures the crisis—only to find, in the end, that the father and mother reflect each other, and are in essence the same. The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned.”


Atonement with the father Silence of the Lambs

She completely bares her soul to Hannibal in this scene and earns his gratitude. This is the wound she’s been carrying with her since she was a child, the reason she became an FBI agent in the first place, to silence the lambs. This is what has held power over her, all her life, by acknowledging this incident she is able to overcome it.

The authority figure could be a father, mother, god, system of laws, an ideal, an event that has power over the hero.


Whether or not the hero is aware of it, the journey has been leading to this moment. Once this new level of enlightenment has been achieved, the hero is able to complete the journey.


Reconcile – Cause to coexist in harmony, make or show compatible.

Conciliate, accommodate, conform, resolve, settle, bring together, bury the hatchet


How to use in your writing

What is the ultimate power in your character’s life?

What is the ultimate power in this adventure?

How is conquering, accepting, or submitting to this power going to lead to a new level of understanding for the hero?

The Hero’s journey – The Temptress

The Temptress

The Temptress is the opposite of the Goddess, the Goddess compels the hero on but the Temptress, provides a distraction or a detour. Rather than performing the role of a blocker or threshold guardian the Temptress presents a situation for the hero where he must make a choice.

This is an internal, moral battle rather than a physical battle. After enduring the grueling road of the trials, the Temptress throws up an option to take the easy way out, to give up on the quest. But by demonstrating he has the ability to refuse this offer, he is more heroic because of it.

The Temptress role may also be played by the Goddess but is not necessarily female.

Star Wars Temptations

Han Solo “Why don’t you come with us? You’re a good pilot, we could use you.”

Darth Vader “Join me and together we can rule the universe as father and son.”

Leia “Run away, far away, if he can feel your presence then leave this place.”

Emperor “Fulfill your destiny and take your father’s place at my side.”

Sirens would lure sailors to death by singing beautiful songs which would attract the ships  to the shore where they would break up on the rocks. They are not true Temptresses as their call is irresistible; they give the hero no choice.

Temptation in the Garden of Eden. They were warned by God not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge but a snake convinced Eve there was no harm in eating the fruit so she does,  she offers Adam some and he eats it as well. God finds out banishes them from the Garden of Eden and dishes out some eternal punishments. The dilemma they faced was their curiosity to find out what would happen if they ate the fruit versus obeying God, they choose the former and as a result, suffered the consequences.

Tempt – to attempt to persuade or entice to do something, especially something morally wrong or unwise

Lure, seduce, invite, charm persuade, magnetize


Dilemma – A problem offering at least two possibilities but to choose one means you lose the other and this loss causes pain

Difficulty, problem, bind, puzzle, quandary

How to use it in your writing

Identify a moment in your story after the hero has experienced some difficulty and hazards and present him with an opportunity, from another character, to leave the quest. If he is able to resist this temptation we admire him as a hero. If he cannot resist, he is punished and made to suffer, it is a hard lesson learned.

Most often, but not always, the temptation will come from either the Goddess or the Antagonist of your story. Is this the case or does it need to come from another character, such as one of the hero’s allies?


The Hero’s journey – The Road of the Trials

The road of the trials The Hero has to prove himself worthy and earn the right to achieve transformation . This stage is not a singular moment, it’s a number of steps spread across the second act. The Hero need not necessarily pass these tests but failure will not deter him from completing his quest. They are designed to expose the Hero’s vulnerabilities and prepare him for greater ordeals yet to come. It is common for these tests to come in threes. These tests are to provide knowledge to the Hero, who his friends are, who his enemies are. He implements or takes advantage of the assistance given to him by the Supernatural Aid and to demonstrate how he reacts when he succeeds or fails.

Joseph Campbell broke down the trials into different recurring types of tests and not all Heroes would have to endure all the stages only the ones specific to his journey; Brother battle, Dragon battle, Dismemberment, Crucifixion, Abduction, Night-sea journey, Wonder journey

Brother battle – against a familiar foe which the Hero has some connection or affinity. It involves a dark side of the Hero’s persona and he must placate this Threshold guardian to pass.

Dragon battle – against something completely alien and unknown, a superior force which he has no experience with. He must overcome this Threshold guardian to pass.

Dismemberment and crucifixion – the Hero loses to this Threshold guardian, dismemberment means he loses a part of himself like a limb. Crucifixion means he is slain, publically tortured and left to die. He must give up his old life; accept that it has been destroyed, so he can continue on with the quest.

Abduction – Someone close to the Hero or the Hero himself is abducted and taken away. The decision to go on this journey has been thrust upon him, and he must deal with it.  As the hero chases after the captors he may go on the Night-sea journey.

Night-sea journey – The Hero has to travel a great distance, sometimes overseas or on a long night journey. The Sea is symbolic of a giant barrier between home and your destination. And a night journey is symbolic of things happening with stealth.

Wonder journey – The hero has gone to a special magical place. This world is full of wonder, a stark contrast to his previous mundane existence.

The different types of tests

  • Deadly terrain
  • Monsters
  • Temptations
  • Deadly opposites
  • Journey to the underworld

Terrain The environment, the ground beneath the hero’s feet, it can be hostile because it’s large, dry, wet, lifeless. Whatever it is, it’s difficult and the Hero must get across it.

Monsters A monster is a creature which is not only trying to do someone harm, it also represents something wrong with the natural order. Jaws is a monster, he’s not just a shark, he’s hunting the hero, an animal taking on a human trait. Frankenstein’s monster, Dinosaurs, Alien- the natural order of things out of control.

Temptations Temptations are designed to lure, attract, seduce the Hero into something he shouldn’t be doing, most likely, not completing his quest. They are loaded with the dilemma – is this worth giving up my quest for? The Hero has to make a decision.

Deadly opposites The Hero must navigate a narrow path between two deadly opposing dangers. In Titanic the Hero is shot at and has to run below the deck whilst at the same time avoid death from the sinking ship. A narrow path between killed by a gunshot wound and drowning.

Journey to the Underworld Descend into a place where ‘dead people’ dwell. These dead people can horrify the Hero by representing what will happen to him if he fails. They also have the opportunity to provide information to the hero from people who have gone on the journey and failed.

How to use it in your writing There are twelve points listed here from Joseph Campbell and The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. Not all of these tests will appear in every story however, a good exercise is to go through your story and list all of the tests your Hero has to overcome. Is it a short list? Is it a non existent list? Can you get anything out of your story by adding or developing any of these stages further? Further reference

Hero’s Journey – Belly of the whale

Belly of the whale

It is a turning point in the Hero’s Journey where the hero is swallowed by a larger monster or representative of evil and comes out with a new sense of self. The hero is consumed but emerges alive.

The whale is the personification of all that is unconscious; it is powerful, dangerous and it must be controlled by the conscious.

The purpose is to prepare the hero, physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. It is to reinforce in the mind of the hero that he is in a deadly situation. It is to understand and come to terms with death.

It’s also understood as the final separation from the hero’s previous world and the new world.

Baptism – Dipping someone in water – is symbolic of being emersed in something and people think the person has died. Then he comes back to life but is reborn anew.

The stage of Belly of the whale takes its name from the story of Jonah and the Whale.

God commanded Jonah to go and preach in Ninaveh about repentance but Jonah didn’t like that city so instead he went to another city by ship. A storm hit the boat and Jonah ended up overboard and was swallowed by a whale. He spent three days inside the whale and realized he must fulfill his obligation and face his responsibilities.

For Han solo in the Original Star Wars Trilogy, his Belly of the Whale moment is when he is put into carbon freeze. He is near death but when he emerges from this experience and has recovered the first thing he does is volunteer for the dangerous mission to take out the deflector shield. This is a shocking transformation of character, so much so that when Princess Leia finds out about it her jaw drops open. He is now, no longer a swashbuckling adventurer but a hero.

Breakdown of Belly of the whale


Definition – to consume or destroy as if by ingestion.


Engulf, destroy, demolish, envelop completely, overwhelm, consume


Definition – a ceremony, trial or experience by which one is initiated, purified or given a name.


Purification, emersion, submerge, initiation


Definition – An enlightenment causing someone to lead a new life


Resurgence, revitalization, salvation, revival

How to use in your script

Once your hero has crossed the First threshold, he shouldn’t conquer it, instead he should be overwhelmed and consumed by it. Has this happened in your script?

Does your hero have a near death experience?

Does this experience prepare them for challenge ahead?

Hero’s journey – Crossing the first Threshold

Crossing of the first Threshold

The hero agrees to take on the journey, often reluctantly or because external forces have given him no other choice. This is the point of no return, a moment of commitment and change, leaving behind the old and accepting the new. New opportunities, new dangers.

It is significant in that this event is a choice the hero makes in response to the call to adventure.

Thresholds often have guardians which represent some sort of challenge for the hero to overcome. Again, this is rooted in the need for conflict in drama otherwise a scene becomes boring. If the hero agrees to go forward there must be some force trying to prevent this.

This is the turning point into Act Two.

In The Matrix the Crossing of the first Threshold is when Neo decides to take the red pill and find out how far the rabbit hole goes. Everything has changed, new rules, new location and how well the hero responds to this is a demonstration of his mettle.

Breakdown of Crossing of the first Threshold


Definition – A place where two roads meet OR the action of moving across or over something.


Passage, intersection, transit, crossroads, pass, cut through, intertwine


Definition – Opening; beginning


Boundary, point of departure, starting point, dawn, door, verge, brink, entrance


Definition – To become different from what it was.


Transform, convert, substitution, exchange


Definition – the act of engaging oneself in an action that restricts one’s freedom


Guarantee, pledge, promise, vow, application, captivity, participation, obligation

How to use in your script

Has your hero crossed the threshold by choice or was it passive?

Do you have a guardian making it difficult for the hero?

Have you forced your hero into a rock and hard place before this moment where he has to make this choice.

Have you created a new world for the hero? New locations, new goals, new rules for him to learn or is it repetition of what has already occurred?

Read the definition and synonyms of the breakdown, are you touching on those words in this moment?

Hero’s journey – Supernatural aid

Supernatural aid

Help is given to the hero from someone who is endowed with abilities beyond the normal. They may or may not give the hero some talisman to help him on the journey.

For some reason, e.g. too old, this guide is unable to complete the job ahead, the journey must be completed by the hero.

Can be used to highlight how hopelessly unprepared and outclassed the hero is for the journey.

Experienced heroes

Experienced heroes often have no physical Mentor instead their mentor takes the form of their conscience and the code of honor they live by.


Definition – Mysterious, not of this world, something beyond our current understanding

Synonyms – unearthly, weird, miraculous, rare, secret, transcendental, divine, omnipotent, religious


Definition – Help, support,

Synonyms – Advancement, alleviation, encouragement, guidance, promotion


Definition – A charm believed to have supernatural powers and bring good luck

Synonyms – Amulet, mascot, idol, image, symbol


Definition – A wise and trusted councilor or teacher

Synonyms – Advisor, master, guide


This stage represents assistance and push. It is a stage which conflicts with the Rejection of the call stage.

In Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling is an FBI trainee and Jack Crawford is the head of the Bureau’s Behavioural Science unit. In a classic story he would serve as the mentor for Clarice, he does serve this function to a degree, however, in a masterful stroke of story telling, Hannibal Lector- the serial killer is her mentor. He’s the one who gives her advice and assistance to help track down the killer and at the same time, overcome her own flaws.

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?


Hero’s journey – Call to Adventure

Call to adventure

This is a breakdown of the term and the concept of the stage of the Hero’s journey known as Call to adventure to give a greater understanding of the stage and options when writing.

The Call to Adventure can be defined as some information, presented in the form of a problem, a challenge or a request, which is received by the hero and will require some form of action which takes him off into the unknown


Definition – need, cause for action

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


Definition – risky or unexpected undertaking

Synonyms – Chance, endangerment, enterprise, experience, feat, incident, peril, undertaking, venture, jeopardise

Another definition of Call to adventure is A pull to the unknown

A pull towards the unknown


Definition – Drawing something with force

Synonyms – dislocate, drag, extract, haul, pluck, tear, tug , wrench, allure, coax, persuade, tempt


Definition – obscure, mysterious

Synonyms – alien, exotic, uncharted, unexplained, hidden

This is an act which happens to the hero, how the hero responds to this incident is what launches the story into act 2.

Destiny has summoned the hero.


How to use these breakdowns

Look at the Call to adventure of your story in terms of A pull to the unknown, is your hero’s introduction to this information closer to a wrench or tempt? Dislocate or allure? What if you swapped the type of synonym? for example, instead of a femme fetale hiring a detective to investigate a crime (allure or tempt) you flip it and have a bunch of guys beating him up and warn him away from any investigations (tear or wrench). Then consider what you gain and what you lose, how you want to portray your lead character. Flipping scenes like this can also give you material for more scenes.

Look at the word unknown. What kind of story are you telling if your hero is going off into the unknown where the unknown is hidden as opposed to alien? It’s a completely different story. You may be bogged down with writer’s block and have no idea what to write next. Come back to the Call and examine the direction you’ve gone in. Do you open up any new aspects of the story by considering exactly how you’re defining the Call to Adventure.

Finding Nemo

In Finding Nemo the Call to Adventure is Nemo being taken by the deep sea diver, this is more of an alarm or wrench style of call. If you wanted more ideas you could try tempt or allure and have Nemo go off to join a school of fish who are offering a more exciting lifestyle than his father can give him. It’s a different story and it may give you new ideas. Toy Story 2 flipped it around with Woody originally being stolen (wrench) but then offering him a life in a museum as a collectors item (tempt).

Hero’s Journey – Ordinary World

Ordinary world

The first stage of the hero’s journey is the Ordinary World. The hero goes about his ordinary life and demonstrates his flaw – a simple task, that by the end of the story he has grown and learnt to overcome it. It is used to demonstrate the vivid contrast the new world he is about to enter.

Break down the key words, Ordinary, World, Flaw

Use a breakdown of keywords to give yourself a more complete understanding of the concept. Substitute synonyms and contemplate this new combination and list ideas that this generates e.g. ordinary world becomes mundane period or basic people.


Definition; With no special or distinctive features, normal

Synonyms: Usual, regular, normal, habitual, customary, basic, expected, everyday, prosaic, standard, unremarkable, average, mundane, routine

Keep in mind the term ordinary refers to the current status of the individual, if your hero is a soldier, firing a gun and killing people while they try to kill you is normal. The ordinary is not compared to your own current life.


Definition; The sphere or scene of one’s life and action

Definition; All that relates to or affects the life of a person

World comes from Old English word weorold, a compound of wer meaning man and eld meaning age, roughly translates to Age of man

Synonyms; Actuality, reality, community, people, existence, domain, social class, everybody, period, times, environment


Definition; An imperfection, often concealed, that hinders effectiveness

Synonyms; Incomplete, failing, weakness, fault, disfigurement, hamartia


***Don’t just pick a flaw at random, when creating your character make the task of overcoming his flaw a necessary by-product of completing the objective of the story. As an example with my fictitious screenplay Dwarf Teacher High; The dwarf teacher begins the story feeling insignificant, helpless, unable to stand up for himself but, in order to save the school from being closed down he has to overcome those flaws in order to be able to organize the (dance off) that will save the school. The goal of the story is to save the school from being shut down but his flaw is something that makes it more difficult for him to achieve it.

As with any part of a story, everything must be achieved through conflict. When there is no conflict it gets boring pretty quickly. The character’s flaw is simply another tactic to achieve conflict in the story. If the character’s flaw is nothing more than a distraction to the story, you’ve failed to take advantage the opportunity to create more conflict.


How to create the ordinary world?

1. What is routine for the hero?

2. Who does he interact with?

3. What sort of environments does he move through?

4. Why does he tolerate/enjoy/endure this existence?

5. How does he react to this world?

6. How does he demonstrate his flaw?

7. How can you capture all of this visually?

A good exercise is to go through the first ten minutes of your favorite films and answer these questions.


Shrek (2001)

1. Lives by himself and likes to be left alone.

2. As few people as possible but lives in a world of fairy tale characters

3. Swamps and forests

4. He likes his privacy and people don’t like him/afraid of him

5. Very grumpy.

6. He feels like he’s a big, stupid ugly Orge – unlovable. He’s not interested in letting anyone get close to him so they can’t make him feel unlovable.

7. Even though he does the right thing and saves Donkey from he bad guys, he’s quick to turn his back on Donkey and shun any friendship of any kind.


Ordinary world is the first step, it’s roughly the first ten pages but like any of the stages there is flexibility and room for modification depending on how you’re telling your story.