「服務他人是你住地球應該付出的租金。」– 穆罕默德‧阿里 (拳擊手)
"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." -- Muhammad Ali, Boxer


著名的神話學大師Joseph Campbell 在1990年出版的作品《A Hero’s Journey》中,強調故事中最重要的三元素:角色、情節、與時空設定,並歸納出了神話故事劇情的12步基本架構,在著名的作品如《魔戒》與《星際大戰》中也都可以看出這樣的脈絡。掌握這些要素,你也能寫出一篇好故事。


Ancient knowledge and timeless moral lessons are often passed down in the form of a story. Sacred books like The Bible or Tao De Ching are collections of stories that reveal deep ways of thinking about the world and our place as humans in society. Stories are expressions of humanity and culture. They can be as long as a book or as short as a few words. The defining aspects of every story can be summed up using the three elements of character, plot, and setting. Even if they are not explicitly stated, the storyteller/writer or the listener/reader/audience can fill in the blanks using their imagination to make the story complete using these elements. 



Even one sentence can tell a story. Fleshing out the details is where the artistry of writing and storytelling comes in. The work of Joseph Campbell identified one common story arch, or plot, across many ancient myths that were part of countless cultures around the world. Campbell called these similarities "The Hero's Journey." He cross-referenced his research of myths and legends to figure out the formula that made them captivating for so many generations. One of his tools was picking out archetypes, or recognizable characters, like the hero, the mentor, the ally, the trickster, the guardian, and others. These archetypal characters pop up in almost every story ever told.



The hero's role is to overcome some kind of problem as the main character. In order to solve the problem or save the world, the hero has to undertake a mission that takes them out of their known environment, which can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or all three. The character of the mentor gives the hero the tools they need to accomplish their mission, and the ally, or friend, accompanies the hero on their quest.

Two examples of this technique in practice are the incredibly popular science-fiction and fantasy sagas, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. The heroes in both of these modern classics follow the pattern of the hero's journey to a T. Both Luke Skywalker and Frodo have a mission to accomplish so that evil can be defeated and good can prevail. The characters of the old wizard Gandalf and the mysterious Jedi master Obiwan Kenobi serve as the mentors, while Han Solo and Samwise Gamgee help their friends along the way as allies. Each character in a story works together so that the hero can defeat evil or otherwise complete their task, while keeping the audience entertained in the process. These archetypes are not set in stone, and characters often take on traits of several archetypes within the same story. Nonetheless, they serve a purpose to move the story forward, which brings us to the plot.



The word "story" is often used in place of plot, but basically, it refers to what happens during the story. Who the characters are is revealed as the plot develops. The characters are pieces on the chessboard, and the plot is the moves the players make with the pieces. The plot is also part of Campbell's "The Hero's Journey." He found that the story arch of myths often follows a similar pattern, which he broke down into 12 specific sections, just as a story is often separated into chapters or acts. All 12 plot points fit into a three-act structure that culminates in the most exciting or difficult part of the hero's journey, known as the climax of the story. Going back to Star Wars and LoTR as perfect examples, the climax happens when Luke defeats his nemesis Darth Vader or when Frodo finally destroys the ring.

After coming out the other side of the journey victorious, the ending of the story can be reached with a resolution, or as Campbell calls the last plot point, "Returning with the Elixir." Things either return to normal, or are permanently changed. The closing of the circle is symbolically represented by the hero's return followed by a celebration of surviving the impossible obstacles that lay behind in the previous pages of the story.



Last but not least is the setting, or where and when the story is taking place. How the characters play out their adventures within the plot is dictated by the setting. The setting can play such an important role that it becomes almost like a character of its own. Stories that take place in the future or in the past have certain rules or expectations, and a story set in an imaginary place will turn out differently than one set closer to reality. Since Campbell carried out his research with a broad scope, he wasn't as interested in setting. Elements of "The Hero's Journey" can be applied to almost any time or place, and they still resonate with people because of how long we have been exposed to the familiar structure and characters.



Titles of stories are another important element, but not every story has one. They can be as simple as one word to give the audience a hint about what to expect, usually in reference to some element of the story like the main character's job, the hero's name, or the setting. Titles can also be abstract, but they often pertain to a central theme of the story itself.


Once you have studied the three elements of a story and how they come together to create every story you have heard, read, or watched, you will start to see how the connections run deep. The building blocks are there to be used creatively, but they also inform how we live our daily lives. Thinking about our experiences as steps on the hero's journey can help us understand more about ourselves as humans.


Joseph Campbell 在《A Hero’s Journey》中提出的12步架構


1. Ordinary World 正常世界



2. Call to Adventure 冒險召喚



3. Refusal of the Call 拒絕召喚



4. Meeting with the Mentor 遇見導師



5. Crossing the Threshold 跨出舒適圈



6. Test, Allies and Enemies 考驗、夥伴、敵人




7. Approach 通往決戰之路



8. The Ordeal 決戰魔王



9. The Reward 獲得寶藏




10. The Road Back 歸途啟程




11. The Resurrection 重生



12. Return with the Elixir 帶回珍寶



photo credit: We Are Neo

本文收錄於英語島English Island 2018年9月號