Use the Hero’s Journey blueprint.
It takes all the guesswork out of “what should happen next?”.
It’s also the instant cure for “writer’s block”, (which I don’t believe in,) because it gives you the exact instructions to follow at any given point in your story. In short, we have no excuse.
All you need to do is snap your own characters onto the template, and get to work with your own original dialogue and creative ideas.
I don’t remember ever being taught about the Hero’s Journey concept in an English class, but it’s essentially the DNA of any good story – because it’s human DNA too. When I stumbled across it during my self-taught YouTube adventures, it was a total revelation.
Everyone should know it, and not just writers. It explains how we work; how we think. Why we see the world in stories and have an endless addiction to them. It’s why we’ve ditched stone, clay, vellum and paper for ebooks and video, and digital ink – but why we’ll always crave the story itself. The delivery system doesn’t matter.
The Hero’s Journey was coined by Joseph Campbell, who researched myths and fables from all over the world, from radically different peoples and cultures, and identified the exact same pattern in every tale. The human story. It was this:
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
It’s the story of Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones. We all relate to it. It’s the twelve-valve engine inside every great story, from Star Wars and The Hobbit to Alien and The Hunger Games. It’s the hero torn from their status quo, to face trials and monsters in the Dark Beyond. And emerge, victorious; stronger and wiser for the challenge. Returning to their status quo, but upgraded within themselves. It’s Jesus in the desert, and Daenerys in the desert, and Furiosa in the desert. It’s the Buddha beneath the tree. It’s Exodus and Beowulf; Prometheus and Gilgamesh.
In essence, it’s “Boy/girl done good. But it was shitty to get there.”
Like four drunk losers leaving a certain Shire, later to return with fine armour and mental scars. And haunted physical scars. But also the immeasurable pride of having saved their peaceful home. For some, especially with haunted physical scars, it’s a home they’ve outgrown, and they have to move on to their next hero’s journey right away.
It’s such a primal narrative that we can all identify with it. Right down at an instinctual, caveman level. It’s the story of growth and survival: risking life and limb for the good of the tribe. It’s the trial; the initiation; the coming of age.
There’s food over there, on the far side of that forest. Enough to keep us all from starving to death. But there’s a jaguar in the way. If you brave that danger, you’ll get your reward. You’ll be the hero.
It’s why some stories seem to be blatant copies of others. It’s why there’s only so many tales in existence, and why there’s nothing new under the sun. Because times change, but people tend not to. For all of our advances, we’re still hardwired with the ancient stuff. The survival story.
I could go into the details of the blueprint itself, but the video below does a far better job of explaining things visually. (There’s also a longer version here that goes into more detail.)
I hope this helps you to write better stories, and more of them!