Last Friday July 15th our Kids’ Writing Workshop for ages 8-12 learned about the form and structure of the Hero’s Journey. We watched a video about how myths use a more-or-less twelve-step process that gets the audience identifying with and rooting for a hero. The video demonstrates how this journey is similar in other popular characters such as Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins and Katniss Everdeen. Almost any literary hero can be examined for the earmarks of this universal journey.
The video ends with a question about how our own lives might evoke the hero’s journey. When we have to step outside our comfort zone (Cross the Threshold) or learn from someone wiser than us (Meet the Mentor) and when we doubt ourselves at first (Rejecting the Call) we are living out the process that makes heroes so human and yet so brave. We spent a few minutes discussing our journeys and the ways in which we have overcome fear in our own lives, answering or rejecting our Call to Adventure. Kids told us about their first rides on roller coasters, or their first viewings of scary movies. One figure that came up a lot was their dads. I don’t think that’s a mere coincidence. For many of us, our fathers are our first Mentors!
We also talked about the idea of a Supreme Ordeal that changes the hero forever. I wasn’t sure if any of the kids would know what that is like, but one kid told us about a serious injury she had that left a bad scar on her face, and how sad it made her for a while. Her scar is no longer visible but it certainly left a mark on her memory and changed her. I was really proud of the kids’ abilities to reflect on their own experiences and on the many ways in which THEY are HEROES.
We did a group writing activity making up a silly story using the Hero’s Journey as a template for it:
And eventually we made our own individual stories. I gave the kids a printout with the 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey listed on it. Then we chose premises at random by spinning the slot machine at Scholastic’s Story Starters website!
The kids loved seeing what ridiculous premises the slot machine gave them, such as an evil avocado landing on a strange planet and taking over its people. That was the premise that two boys decided to write about together: avocados versus cantaloupes! It sounds like it’ll be an epic story!
Here’s what my printout looked like–feel free to use it however you like:
And here’s your homework: check out a good myth, one from ancient cultures, and see if you can find the twelve stages of the Hero’s Journey in it. Want some recommendations? Try these!
Our next Kids’ Writing Workshop for ages 8 to 12 will be held on August 26th at 4:30 pm. We will be led by special instructor Tracy Holczer, author of the middle grade novel The Secret Hum of a Daisy. If you haven’t read it you really have to–the protagonist is very real and relatable, the prose is beautiful and it will inspire you to make your own prose more lyrical and beautiful. We will have a few copies of the author’s book which will be raffled off to lucky attendees, as is our custom here. I can’t wait! Call to sign up: 626-744-4066 option 4.