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 – 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).