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The mad science laboratory
of a screenwriter & consultant


Joseph Campbell

I had a pretty unfair opinion of Joseph Campbell for a long time, not because I ever had a problem with his stuff – I find it very interesting – but simply because it troubled me how new writers or naive development execs would try to make EVERY story fit the hero's journey model, regardless of whether it was applicable or not.

It felt as though, once they'd read Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey, they were pretty sure that was all anyone ever needed to know about writing. The crap that people would come up with as they tried to make tenuous connections between their story and the hero's journey structure and archetypes was, often as not, utterly embarrassing and a complete waste of everyone's time.

There is a hell of a lot more to screenwriting than just optimistically plugging in Campbell's monomyth paradigm and hoping an epic story will somehow result. Some stories just don't want to be mythic and shouldn't be forced to be against their will.

And also – as Scott Meyers' recent series of posts about Joseph Campbell attests – there is lot more to Campbell than the hero's journey too. This personal tale from Scott at Go Into The Story is the penultimate in his excellent series, all of which is well worth a look back over if you're interested in learning more about Campbell (as, naturally, is his Wikipedia entry).

Just please promise me you won't go around afterwards quoting him like everything must conform to monomyth paradigms, because you might realise after a while that you we're wrong, and then you'll just feel silly.


Incidentally this Campbell documentary looks like it might be worth checking out --