Book Review: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Book: The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
Genre: Writing book
Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
Publication date: 2007
Source: I think it was a Christmas present from my brother (thanks, Dale!)
Summary: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler sets up the concepts of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” as a toolkit for developing stories. The first part describes the archetypal roles that characters can take in the story. The second part describes stories in a grand mythological way by tracing the journey of the hero in everything from Homer’s Odyssey to this week’s blockbuster movies. Mapped onto Aristotle’s Three Act structure, the hero’s journey can aid the writer in creating a plot that is clear and resonates with the reader.
Thoughts: I own more writing books than any other genre. I rarely review them on my blog. The problem is that I almost never read a writing book from cover to cover. I read a little, get an idea, run off to write, and never get back to the book. I decided recently that I really want to finish my writing books when I start them, so I’m making a concerted effort now.
I’ve owned a copy of The Writer’s Journey in all three of its editions and this is the first version, now a clunkster of a book, that I read all the way through. I don’t remember the older editions that well, but I think a lot of the extra material is in the form of essays in the back that illuminate some concepts that go across the stages of the journey.
The Writer’s Journey has faced some criticism for being more about journeys of men than journeys of women. I just used it to plot a story that felt very feminine to me and it worked just fine. “Journey,” of course, can be used metaphorically to mean an inner journey and that made this concept work in my context. I have a couple of more books that explore the journey more fully from the feminine perspective, so I’ll let you know if I think differently when I’m done reading those.
The other obvious criticism of approaching stories in this way is that it can turn into a kind of factory-made method for constructing stories. When I use this, though, I feel like there’s lots of room for my creativity — up to and including breaking the structure in some way. When I’m feeling lost and muddled in my writing (which is often), I can use the help of all the structure that I can get.
I love the Tarot card like illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. They fit so well with the mythical overtones of this book that make The Writer’s Journey such a calming pleasure to read.
Appeal: Writers working in any genre where stories are told will find The Writer’s Journey a useful companion on the trek.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
I have seen and I wanted to read this book but, like you, I have so many books on writing that the thought of buying even one more seemed self-indulgent and unnecessary.
I have a lot of books on writing as well. I just looked at my “Reading Challenge” pinterest board and I see that there are some titles missing from it, probably because they are hiding in a box somewhere. What other books on writing do you have? Or, if that list would be too long, what books on writing were you thinking of reading next?
I’ll take a photo of my writing books this weekend — that will make a fun post!
Yay! I’ll keep an eye out for the photo. 🙂
I’m just starting to collect books on writing, I’d like to work on my writing skills. I never know where to start and will look this up, maybe I’ll be inspired to go off and write too!
This is one of my first and favourite writing books, I love the journey idea and I think it works for both genders with some wriggling, though I’d love to hear what other books you like.
I love “The Comic Toolbox” by Jon Vorhaus, and “How to write killer fiction” by Carolyn Wheat, have you read either of those?
Those both sound really good, Ali! I’ve often wanted a book about how to put some humor in my writing — I didn’t know one already existed!
Get the Comic Toolbox, it’s awesome. It was the text for a Writer’s Village comedy writing class I took, and the basis for a couple of the lists in the humour section of my website. Or we could meet up and I’ll loan you my copy.
Thanks, Ali! I’m going to buy it because it sounds like a book I’m going to want forever.
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