Note: My former colleague Adam Connor borrowed this visual model from a friend. I have borrowed it from him. Thank you, Adam!
If you’ve seen any of the Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Matrix films you’ve seen something called The Monomyth, or The Hero’s Journey.
It’s a storytelling framework that has been around for a long time. Joseph Campbell introduced the concept in his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
This model that I’ll discuss here is a simplified version of The Hero’s Journey.
Teams can learn more about themselves, and how to tell better stories when they use a visual form of this model.
This can also be helpful for creative individuals too. If you want to learn from the past, to plan what’s next. Or if you’re wondering how to tell your story.
Here’s the model:
- Exposition - what is your ‘right now’, your ‘zone of comfort’ like?
- Inciting incident - what draws your attention?
- Rising Action - how do you prepare for what’s next?
- Crisis - what is the main challenge?
- Climax - how did you overcome the challenge?
- Denouement - How did you change based on this challenge?
- End - What is your new place of comfort like now?
Here’s A New Hope, Star Wars Episode IV, expressed in the model:
Exposition - Luke Skywalker lives on a desert planet with his aunt and uncle. He wants to join the rebel alliance, be a pilot, and fight the Evil Galactic Empire like his dad did.
Inciting incident - Luke hears The Princess call Obi-Wan Kenobi for help
Rising Action - Luke’s Aunt and Uncle are killed by the Evil Galactic Empire. Luke leaves with Obi-wan - “There is nothing left for me here”
Crisis - A road of trials: Learn the ways of The Force, Hire Han and Chewie, get off the planet, Rescue the Princess, Space battles, and the Rebels must blow up the Death Star.
Climax - Luke uses The Force to blow up the Death Star!
Denouement - Luke is a pilot, a part of the rebel alliance, and he fought the Evil Galactic Empire, just like his father did. He gets what he wanted, but pays a price.
End - Luke now has friends and belonging within the Rebel Alliance. He has a new normal.
In the expanded models of this framework there is a lot more to dig into. This really is a scaled down version.
I’ve used this with teams at work. I typically draw this on a whiteboard and people write and place stickie notes to express their thoughts. A digital whiteboard tool works too for remote teams.
For people working solo, or small teams, use whatever you have. Drawing this on a piece of paper works just fine too. Protip - rip/cut up another piece of paper to make your own stickie notes to drop and arrange in the right spots on the visual model.
Here are a couple example drawings. Make it your own! Give it a try and let me know how it goes!