Notes On The Hero From Vogler

If you’re reading something and you’re not sure who the hero is, it’s the character who changes the most. [But this is a little complicated.]

The hero is usually the most active one in the story.

A hero springs into action with the arrival of some outside force — that includes the reluctant heroes.

Heroes aren’t necessarily strong and brave — heroes make some sort of sacrifice. Sacrifice is the true  mark of a hero, especially when it’s on behalf of a group.

There will be a confrontation with death at some point in the story — either actual death or death in a metaphorical sense. [This is called the Battle sequence, even if it’s not actually a fight.]

The dramatic movement that audiences enjoy more than any other is death and rebirth. In some way in every story, heroes face death or something like it: their greatest fears, the failure of an enterprise, the end of a relationship, the death of an old personality.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey

Other characters in a story can act heroically — not just the designated hero. Even villains and baddies can very effectively portray heroic qualities. Every rounded character should manifest a touch of each archetype (The Shadow In The Hero).

Heroes have character flaws so that human readers can identify with them.

Flaws also allow room for the character arc, and should be based on that.

Heroes in fairy tales often start out with some sort of death in the family, or human loss.

With modern heroes it’s often the hero’s personality that is being restored to wholeness.  (The ability to love/trust etc.) [This is known as the redemption arc, which has its problems.]

There are willing and unwilling (reluctant) heroes.

There are anti-heroes. [The anti-hero has replaced the redemption arc in ‘quality TV’ since the turn of the millennium.] Tony Soprano and Walter White are good examples.

There are group-oriented heroes. When we first meet them they’re part of a clan. They have to go away from the clan to achieve something heroic, then at the end they rejoin the clan. The group-oriented hero often has to make a choice between returning to the ordinary world of the first act, or staying in the special world of the second act. (In the West, hardly any heroes stay in the special world, but this is more common in Asian and Indian stories).

Loner Heroes belong naturally in the wilderness. In the beginning they are estranged from society. Their journey is one of re-entry to the group. Common in Westerns, but also in any other kind of story in which the loner/hermit/retired person is called back into society or when an emotionally isolated person is challenged to re-enter the world of relationships. Some go back to being alone (Hud) and some remain as part of a group (or in a relationship, after a Manic-Pixie Dream Girl comes to rescue them).

Catalyst Heroes is Vogler’s word to describe the character who acts heroically but don’t change much. They exist to bring about change in others. Catalyst Heroes are useful in ongoing TV shows, in which characters can’t change much without altering the entire show as it goes through an unknown number of seasons. (Superman and The Lone Ranger)

For more on particularly female heroes, see The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness by Maureen Murdock.

– from The Writer’s Journey by Christopher VoglerHaving a hero isn’t always positive. It has the reputation of being a good thing, but it can actually backfire and become pretty limiting. Here’s how:

When we have heroes, we look up to them. This is all well and good, but the problem is — in a subtle, sneaky way — simultaneous to looking up, we’re putting ourselves down. We become the subordinate one. The hero is the one who’s supposed to remain on the pedestal and take care of his or her holy business, while we remain down on the ground, consumed in worship.

The Problem With Heroes from The Good Men Project


If you’re in Australia and someone calls you a hero, or ‘an absolute hero’, beware. Another word which has gone from positive to negative is ‘champion’. ‘Hero’ can now mean a failed attempt to look tough and capable. Here’s an example:

This is the way a leader of a union behaves? No wonder you are regarded as a fringe lunatic group. Just just for a laugh, how about I sue you for defamation over that pedophile comment? Want to give me your real name, hero?



Changing the story you tell about yourself can make you healthier, happier and more successful. How to take control of your self-narrative for a better, happier life from New Scientist (which sounds like we should all take a leaf out of the sociopath’s playbook).


Female Heroes in Young Adult Fantasy Fiction: Reframing Myths of Adolescent Girlhood

The heroic romance is one of the West’s most enduring narratives, found everywhere, from religion and myth to blockbuster films and young adult literature. Within this story, adolescent girls are not, and cannot be, the heroes. They are, at best, the hero’s bride, a prize he wins for slaying monsters. Crucially, although the girl’s exclusion from heroic selfhood affects all girls, it does not do so equally – whiteness and able-bodiedness are taken as markers of heightened, fantasy femininity.

Female Heroes in Young Adult Fantasy Fiction: Reframing Myths of Adolescent Girlhood (Bloomsbury, 2023) by Dr. Leah Phillips explores how the young female-heroes of mythopoeic YA, a Tolkienian-inspired genre drawing on myth’s world-creating power and YA’s liminal potential, disrupt the conventional heroic narrative. These heroes, such as Tamora Pierce’s Alanna the Lioness, Daine the Wildmage, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and Iko, offer a model of being-hero, an embodied way of living and being in this world that disrupts the typical hero’s violent hierarchy, isolating individuality, and erasure of difference. In doing so, they push the boundaries of what it means to be a hero, a girl, and even human.

New Books Network
The Biblical Hero: Portraits in Nobility and Fallibility (Jewish Publication Society, 2020).

Approaching the Bible in an original way—comparing biblical heroes to heroes in world literature—Rabin addresses a core biblical question: What is the Bible telling us about what it means to be a hero?

Focusing on the lives of six major biblical characters—Moses, Samson, David, Esther, Abraham, and Jacob—Rabin examines their resemblance to hero types found in (and perhaps drawn from) other literatures and analyzes why the Bible depicts its heroes less gloriously than do the texts of other cultures.

New Books Network

Header art made with Midjourney


On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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