The most important thing you must remember about any plot is that a good plot is a series of events that teach a lesson. Without that lesson learned, the story will come off as hollow and formulaic.
The Hero’s Journey Plot
The Set Up/call to adventure
Every story must start up in the character’s ordinary world. I’ve written a post about the most important thing you can do as a writer and that is writing a character that readers can identify with. You can do this by giving them a relatable set of circumstances. Family and friends the character cares about, and the interpersonal issues that go along with those relationships, are usually relatable cross-genres.
Usually the character is missing something. There’s a lesson to be learned. The story happens when those issues are amplified by external forces pressing the character to make choices that will lead to consequences. The character will learn from these consequences, eventually going through an internal change.
Here is my setup for Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling– https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/24/excerpt-from-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling-chapter-one/
Or, refusal of the call. This is when the protagonist doesn’t think they’re in the wrong and want to keep everything as is. They challenge the problem by ignoring there is one.
Meeting with Mentor
The mentor doesn’t have to be a wise old person (sorry Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Mr. Miyagi). It can be literally anyone who knows the lesson that the protagonist must learn. The mentor intervention could be a single line or scene, encouraging the main character to go on a path that will teach them what they need to know.
Here is an example: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/24/the-heros-journey-style-plot-and-how-i-used-it-for-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling-excerpt-from-chapter-two/
Crossing the threshold
This could be literal or figurative. The protagonist could go on a journey or start taking dance lessons. Whatever new world the character dives into will teach them and hopefully change them.
Here is an example: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/25/a-whole-new-world-a-heros-journey-plot-point-featuring-an-excerpt-from-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling/
Tests, Allies, and Enemies
This part can also be called “fun and games” in other guides to plotting. This is where the protagonist meets the people who will help teach them the lesson the character needs to learn. What the character learns here will aide them in the future. This part of a story is where you’ll place foreshadowing for the ultimate test.
The character, at this point, will use the opinion that needs to change to guide them. This way of thinking will not, and must not, go well for them. They can have false victories here if it ultimately sets them up for disaster and a reason to change tactics later on.
Find an example scene of this plot point: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/28/test-allies-and-enemies-a-heros-journey-plot-point-featuring-an-excerpt-from-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling/
Approaching the Innermost Cave
This is the point of the hero’s journey where they enter a place where the character must do something dangerous or challenging: attempting a rescue, an escape, or obtaining an object. They are deep in enemy territory at this point.
This is where the protagonist faces their biggest challenge. Their personal and story stakes are the highest at this point. It’s do or die. They cannot go back to their old life or way of thinking, this point has to forever change them.
In most myths and legend, the hero dies, metaphorically or for real in the ordeal. However, the ordeal is also a place of rebirth. The protagonist comes through this challenge with greater understanding, or some sort of power that will help them through the rest of the story.
The enemy is defeated. The hero has won the ordeal and is changed inside and out. This is where the protagonist gest some sort of reward for learning the lesson. It can be an object or prize. Whatever. They’ve won. Kinda.
The Road Back
This is the reverse of the push beyond the ordinary world. The hero has learned the lesson and must now return to their daily life. This is a point where the protagonist must choose between his or her personal objective and a higher purpose.
Not the resurrection of the hero, but the resurrection of the enemy. The hero thought everything was safe and good, but this is where they have one final test. They will come the closest to death (literal or figurative) at this point.
The return Home
The hero has learned all they needed. This is where they resolve their issues and live their happily ever after–or happy for now. The hero will be changed, successful, and have some form of proof of their journey.
(Featured excerpts from Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling are from the rough draft and are for an examples only, they may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author. The excerpts are also subject to change in editing and revisions and may appear altered in the final draft of the novella)
Image from Pixabay
Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer retelling is available for preorder here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD