The Hero’s journey – Freedom to live

Freedom to live

Freedom to live means freedom from negative emotions which pull the hero away from living in the moment. Negative emotions such frustration, sadness, shame, fear, depression, doubt and despair are banished and instead he is able to celebrate the victory.

They are awarded with some high level of success as dictated by the world in which he lives, it may be that he becomes king, he gets the girl, gets the promotion, sees the bully get dragged off to detention.


Star Wars has the big medal ceremony to acknowledge their bravery and success in destroying the Death Star.

Aliens – Ripley escapes with her life and her loved ones.

And they all lived happily ever after.


Freedom – the power to think, speak, act as you wish without restraint. Not imprisoned or enslaved.

Liberty, independence, abandon


Live – to enjoy being alive

Delight, prosper, experience, love, pleasure, thrive


How to use it in your writing

What is success for your hero? Have you set up from the start? Is this moment a reflection of what he was like in the opening scene of the film?

Has your hero truly earned this moment?

The Hero’s journey – Master of two worlds

Master of Two worlds

As with all the steps, sometimes they are clearly separate from each other and other times they are intertwined and flow directly into each other as part of the same scene. Magic Flight, Crossing the return Threshold and Master of the two worlds can be one large block.

By the end of this stage, the hero now has proven he ability to effortlessly pass back and forth between the two worlds.

Increase the stakes at this stage by putting a ticking time bomb of some sort about to go off. Make the enemy confident and seemingly have the advantage over the Hero for the longest possible time.


In Aliens Ripley has combined her loader lifter skills with her warrior protector skills and fights the Alien Queen “Get away from her you bitch!”


Master – Acquire complete knowledge or skill

manage, dominate, overcome, control, overpower

World – A realm or domain, A particular way of life.

reality, experience

How to use this in your writing

This is the final confrontation; don’t have anything left in the tank at the end of this battle.

Make sure everything is resolved with no loose ends.

Add to the desperation by considering the location, put your hero with his back against the wall so he has no place to run, if he fails he can’t escape, he will die. Or the reverse applies and locate the battle on the enemies home ground where he has the advantage.

Give the hero some witnesses to this action.

The Hero’s journey – The crossing of the return Threshold

The crossing of the return Threshold

The crossing of the return Threshold brings to a conclusion what began at the crossing of the first Threshold; in the same way the Ultimate Boon relates to the Call to adventure.

It’s the moment when he has figured out what it takes to be a hero and is willing to do it.  From this point on, for the rest of his life, he’s finally worked out the kind of person he’s going to be.

Often there is one more final foe to be defeated here.


Save the Cat describes the three Acts as;

Act I – Thesis – describing what is.

Act II – Anti Thesis – turning his world upside down.

Act III – Synthesis – the combination of the two worlds.


The Crossing of the Return threshold is the moment when the hero has the willing and wisdom to bring them together.


The Incredibles – The Incredibles united together and defeated the Omnidroid. Crossing the return threshold is when they return to their house and discover Syndrome has abducted Jack Jack.


Return – To come back from where you’ve been

Restore, give back, come back, revert, get back


Definition – Opening; beginning

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


How to use it in your writing

Have you combined the wisdom the hero has learnt during the adventure into a moment to signify how the hero is going live his life from this point on?

Be aware that this stage can happen during the final big battle or just after the big battle.

The Hero’s journey – Rescue from without

Rescue from without

Hero’s don’t live in a vacuum, they are heroes because of us. They sacrifice their lives for us but they are not alone. Others should not stand idly by and watch the hero do everything. The Hero must do all the heavy lifting but his friends and allies should be what give him the slight edge over the enemy.

It’s function in a story is to take the hero as close to the moment of death as possible.

Keep in mind it’s not a random event, it’s an action from another character that’s been earned by the earlier actions of the Hero, it’s Karma, you do something good and something good happens back to help you when you need it.

Also, it seems to work best when it appears as a surprise rather than letting the audience know what’s coming. In Transformers 4 this stage was flagged early, dragged out and lost impact. Alfred Hitchcock often spoke about confusing the use of surprise and suspense in films, this is a beat where it is better served by surprise.

Star Wars –Just before Luke fires the shot to destroy the Death Star and Darth Vader is about to kill him, Han Solo appears and takes out the fighters attacking Luke. Han “You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home.”

The Avengers – Iron Man has made the heroic sacrifice and is falling to his death after taking out the enemy with the nuclear missile. Hulk saves him and cushions his fall.

Jurassic Park – Just before the Raptors kill them, a T Rex appears and kills the Raptors letting the heroes escape. This particular example is not true Rescue from withoug as there was no karma and takes it over the line in Deus ex machina which generally should be avoided but there are numerous incidences in film where it has occurred in film and has been successful

Raiders of the Lost Arc – The Nazis open the Arc and the Angels unleash the power of God on them. Indy is saved because he keeps his eyes shut.

Avatar – Avatar uses two, the first is for the overall battle between the soldiers and the Na’vi when Eywa sends the Pandorian wildlife in to turn the tide of the battle and again when Sully fights Quaritch in the final battle, Neytiri kills him with arrow.


Rescue – To save someone from a dangerous or distressing situation

Deliver, save, relive, pull through


Without – the outside of a place or area

Outside, external, extrinsic


How to use in your writing.

I think it’s important not to allow this stage to become deus ex machina. Focus on the hero being very active at this stage. The friend or ally who gives assistance is usually only just enough to give the hero the edge over his opponent so the hero can triumph. Don’t allow this outside help to replace the action of the hero.


The Hero’s journey – Magic Flight

Magic flight

Once the Ultimate Boon has been achieved, the antagonist chases after the Hero or a big final fight. In film this is the big, exciting climatic piece.

It’s either a fight or a flight. The Hero goes head to head with the villain.  A chase with the enemies in hot pursuit or reversed and the Hero is chasing the villain. How many romantic comedies end with the guy chasing the girl before she gets on a plane to Paris or running in the rain to her house.

Like all the stages in the Hero’s Journey it’s not a literal magical flight.

Star Wars – The assault on the Death Star

The Avengers – The fight over New York

Toy Story – Buzz flies into Andy’s car after defeating Sid.

Avatar – Huge fight in the air and on the ground between the Na’vi and the soldiers.

Magic – Impressive, wondrous, explosions, boom

Flight – Chase, pursuit, run, fight,


How to use it in your writing

A ticking time bomb of some sort adds to the urgency.

Make it as big as possible as the world will allow.

It can be a fight, a chase or both.

The Hero’s journey – Refusal of the return

Refusal of the return

The Hero has achieved the Ultimate Boon and has proved himself worthy to complete the journey. He now must return, bringing with him what he has learnt and what he has become.

However, sometimes the hero wants to remain in the moment and enjoy the feeling of bliss and enlightenment that the Ultimate Boon has brought.  The pull of being Hero is too strong and this diversion will not last. A Hero puts others ahead of himself.

Frodo Baggins, on he brink of throwing the ring in the fires of Mount Doom, refuses to throw it in and claims the ring as his own.

After examining many films to extract the Hero’s journey, I find this stage almost always omitted. I find the stage Death of the Mentor far more common and more worthy of inclusion in the journey.

Refusal – An act of unwillingness to do something

Rejection, denial, not accepting


Return –  To come back to an earlier condition or place

Homecoming, arrival, reunification


How to use in your writing

This is the least most common stage of the Hero’s journey as once they have achieved the Ultimate Boon it means they are ready to go on. However, your story may need a moment where the hero is consumed by the sensation of achieving a higher level of enlightenment and he may need something further to shock him out of it.

The Hero’s Journey – The Ultimate Boon

The Ultimate boon

The Ultimate Boon is the specific direct response to the call to adventure.

The Ultimate boon does not necessarily happen at the end of the film, often it happens around the end of the second act. Very clearly Joseph Campbell indicates the Ultimate boon happens before the Magic flight stage and what some people consider the Ultimate Boon stage is actually the Mastery of two worlds stage.

In Star Wars the Call to adventure is the Princess is in peril and needs rescuing “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Leia is rescued at the end of the second Act, That’s the Ultimate boon. Luke’s response to the Call to adventure is at the end of Act one when he decides to join Obi Wan, learn the ways of the force and become a Jedi like his father. That happens at the end of Act three when he trusts the Force and makes the shot. That’s master of two worlds

In The Avengers, the Call to adventure is Tony is asked to join the Avengers, and when the Avengers unite at the end of Act two, that’s the Ultimate Boon. However, when Tony guides the missile through the hole and destroys the invasion fleet, that’s not the Ultimate Boon, that’s Master of Two worlds

In Kung Fu Panda, the Call to adventure is when Po is selected to become the Dragon Warrior and learn the secret to unlimited power from the Dragon scroll. He learns this at the end of Act two when he discovers ‘the secret’ is belief. That’s the Ultimate boon. However he still has to fight Tai Lun with this knowledge. When he defeats Tai Lun and the Furious Five bow in respect and call him Master, that’s the Master of Two world’s stage.

Ultimate – The Best achievable or imaginable

Final, last, terminal, utmost, extreme


Boon – A Thing that is helpful or beneficial

Blessing, benefit, favor, God send, gift


If you just look at the word Ultimate – it does mean the end but when you combine it with the word Boon, a thing that is helpful or beneficial or even a God send,  it means what is needed to be able to finish the quest.


How to use it in your writing

Usually, not always but usually, The Call to adventure or Inciting Incident happens to the hero, it is not usually an action from the hero. The first turning point, Crossing the first Threshold, Break into Two moment is an active choice made by the hero in response to the Call. Usually, not always.

And the Call to adventure has a resolution at the end of the second Act but the quest is not yet over because obtaining the ultimate boon means you are worthy to complete the journey.

The decision made at the first turning point sets off a chain reaction which is completed at the end of the third act.

Sometimes people set up a Call to adventure where it is completed at the end of the third act and struggle trying to fill act two. If this is the case for you perhaps you can tweak these moments.

If your story is working as it is then don’t force it in just because Joseph Campbell says so but keep in mind this set up is common and works in a number of stories.

Alien – The hero’s journey breakdown


Call to adventure

The crew is awoken from hibernation because they have received a distress call from an unknown source.

Refusal of the call

A couple members of the crew resist going but Dallas, the captain, insists.

Supernatural Aid

The onboard computer Mother. It knows the true meaning behind sending them on this quest.

Crossing the First Threshold

Entering the crash landed Alien Space ship. Kane encounters and is attacked by the first form of the alien.

Belly of the whale

They bring back Kane with the face hugger attached and put him into the infirmary.

Road of the trials

The Alien explodes out of Kane’s chest and then transforms into a larger creature. They hunt it and try and learn it’s weakness as it kills a number of them.

Meeting with the Goddess

Ripley gains access to Mother and  learns the secret mission and that the crew are expendable.

Woman as Temptress

The unseen forces of the company, they are the ones who sought the Alien life form and it’s potential as a weapon regardless of the consequences for the crew.

Atonement with the father

She learns she was right about Ash, he had a secret agenda and they fight to the death.


Ripley is able to resuscitate Ash and extract information out of him about the Alien.

Ultimate Boon

To escape with their lives, Ripley concludes they must get on the escape pod and detonate the ship

Magic flight

Running around the ship, being chased by the Alien, as the self destruct timer runs down.

Master of two worlds

She uses her skills to get into a space suit and jettison the Alien from the pod

Freedon to live

She has survived and  enters hibernation

You can also find the links for

Alien – The Hero’s Journey stages

Alien – The Save the Cat beat sheet

Aliens – The Save the Cat beat sheet

Aliens – The Hero’s Journey stages

Hero’s journey and Save the Cat work very well in concert with each other. If you’ve discovered one but not the other I recommend having a look.

Jurassic Park – The Hero’s journey breakdown

Jurassic Park – The Hero’s journey breakdown

Ordinary World
Grant is an archaeologist working on site digging up bones.

Call to Adventure
Hammond Grant to come see Jurassic Park

Refusal to Call
Grant refuses, as he’s just discovered a new skeleton.

Supernatural Aid
Hammond has created a world where dinosaurs exist. He’s going to take Grant there and teach a him lesson in life. Be careful what you wish for.

Crossing of the first threshold

Taking a helicopter ride and landing in the wildly exotic world of Jurasic Park.

Belly of the whale

Entering the ride where the secrets of DNA recovered from amber is revealed. This is the complete separation of the old world. The thing that has died is Grant’s concept of the limits of science.

Meeting with the Goddess

Grant meets with the children. This is the love story of Jurasic park, fatherly love. In return the children are what encourage his bravery in the story.

Road of the trials

The park goes offline and the power is out. The T Rex gets loose and Grant has to use his, up till now, theoretical knowledge of dinosaurs to save the lives of himself and the children.

Woman as temptress

The temptation in this story is expressed through Nedry. He shows what happens when you succumb to temptation and pays the price for it with his life.

Atonement with the father

Grant and Malcolm never got along. Malcolm based his theories on Chaos and gives dire warnings of the potential consequences. Grant sees the dinosaurs have laid eggs, Malcomb was right, he’s learnt that life will find a way.


Grant brings Tim back to life after he was killed on the electric fence. It’s a god like action to be able to resurrect someone.

Ultimate boon

Grant returns the kids to the safety of the headquarters of the resort.

Magic flight

The children and then the adults are hunted by the raptors inside the resort. They barely escape.

Rescue from without

The Raptors are about to kill them but the T Rex appears and kills the Raptors. This step is far more like deux ex machina than the stage Rescue from without usually is.

Master of two worlds

They have escaped and Ellie looks at Grant who is now comfortable with children with their arms draped over over each other.

Freedom to live

Grant looks out the window at birds migrating. Life goes on

The Hero’s journey – Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs

Ordinary World – Clarice is a small woman in a man’s world, an FBI agent in training.

Call to Adventure – A serial killer has the FBI stumped and her boss, Crawford wants her to take part in the case involving Buffalo Bill, a psychopath who skins his victims.

Refusal of the call – Refusal of the call is flipped onto Lector. When she turns up wanting assistance with finding the serial killer he wants nothing to do with her. He only changes his mind after she was polite to him and one of the other inmates violates her. However it should also be noted that sometimes the refusal of the call is a refusal to heed a warning accompanying the call. In this instance, Crawford warns her not to reveal anything personal to Hannibal Lector because “you don’t want him inside your head.” However, when she meets him, this is exactly what she does.

Supernatural Aid – Hannibal Lector possesses the knowledge she needs, but he’s not going to give it to her easily. Who knows psychopaths better than psychiatrist? Another psychopath, and Hannibal is both.

Belly of the whale – Descending into the dungeon prison where Hannibal and the other criminals lie. Her innocence is destroyed when she has semen thrown on her.

Crossing the first Threshold  – Making the most of a cryptic clue Hannibal gave her, she finds a murder victim which Hannibal reveals as Buffalo Bill’s first victim. The investigation has truly begun.

Road of the trials – back and forth between police investigation and interpreting clues from Hannibal.

Meeting with the Goddess – The Senator’s daughter is abducted by Buffalo Bill, she is the Goddess. Her capture spurs Clarice on and adds a level of urgency. Although Starling doesn’t actually meet her, she serves her purpose.

Woman as Temptress – Clarice is the temptress, she tempts Hannibal with offer of helping her with the case and in return he gets a cell with a view. The dilemma for him is if he helps her directly she will catch him and he will stop seeing her but if he doesn’t help her he will lose his cell with a view.

Atonement with the Father – Dr Lector makes her reveal the story of the silence of the Lambs. She completely exposes herself and gains both Hannibal’s respect and gratitude. Shortly after this, there is a Death of the Mentor moment, Hannibal escapes and she can no longer rely on him for help, she is on her own now.

Apotheosis  – She can see what no one else can see and deduces Buffalo Bill is killing his victims to make a skin suit of a woman.

Ultimate Boon – Crawford believes he has solved the case and is on his way to capture Buffalo Bill. Crawford thanks her and tells her they never would have found him if not for her.

Refusal of the return – Clarice wants to join him, to be one of the FBI officers who captures Buffalo Bill but Crawford sends her on another more junior mission.

The Magic flight – The Magic Flight means escape or fight, The Senator’s daughter devises a plan to escape by capturing Buffalo Bill’s dog. She holds the dog for ransom and demands a phone, Bill gets his gun.

Rescue from without  – Clarice follows the trail but it seems to go cold, until Stacey gives her the address of Buffalo Bill’s house.

The crossing of the return threshold – Enters Buffalo Bills house and works out he is the killer by seeing the moth.

Master of Two worlds – She was once a little girl running with a lamb, trying to save it from slaughter, she failed. Now she’s a FBI agent trying to save a girl in the den of a serial killer. She conquers her fear and kills Buffalo Bill.

Freedom to live – “I have no plans to call on you. The world’s more interesting with you in it.”