If you could speak to your younger self, knowing what you know now, what would you say? Would you have advice for achieving success, a shortcut around obstacles to make a quick victory? Would yours be a cautionary tale, steering the old you away from a dangerous choice at a momentous fork in the road?
I was recently in Honolulu and accepted a breakfast meeting with a platform speaker from the Get Motivated stage. It had been a while since being in Waikiki, so I picked a beach restaurant and promptly ordered macadamia nut pancakes (with coconut syrup). Instantly, the childhood memories of Waikiki beach came flooding back. While enjoying our breakfast, the professional speaker I was meeting made an interesting comment which caught my attention. He leans in and says, “Isn’t life funny? Just when you get life figured out, then there you are at the end of your career.”
This single comment illustrates the heart of the Hero’s Journey writing framework. When designing this writing framework, we wanted to help authors pen compelling non-fiction books which will teach lessons through the lens of a gripping story. And the beauty is, you don’t have to wait until the end of your career to share your wisdom with others. With this non-fiction writing framework, you now have a plan engineered to write a compelling book within three months…even on top of a busy schedule.
Such advice, such as talking to your younger self, is the stuff of legends. Such action is the content of the Hero’s Journey, the classic structure that binds myths and legends, fables and parables together. The hero travels a difficult road, returns home wiser, and offers the benefit of his trials to others.
As an author, you can use this modified Hero’s Journey plan to craft your work of non-fiction and illustrate the core of your message in a fresh and engaging way. This series on the Hero’s Journey has demonstrated step-by-step how this is possible and how you can leverage storytelling in your work.
A hero is someone who has given himself to a cause that’s bigger than himself. He pursues it then returns to his old life to share his experiences with others.
The hero goes on an adventure beyond his everyday world into a place of wonder. He encounters fabulous forces, pursues a goal, and wins a decisive victory.
In this series, we’ve examined the Hero’s Journey. It has taken him over a threshold at the start of his adventure then back across it as he returns to his old life. Now we see what the journey has made of him. He comes back from the adventure transformed and ready to share the power of his experiences with those back home.
The Hero’s Journey is about coming of age, maturing and reaching a new level. It’s a metaphor for the death of the old self and birth of the new. It’s about leaving one condition and acquiring another.
When he goes back to his world with his new wisdom and power, the hero offers it as a gift to his old companions. He is also free from the burden of pursuing the goal now that he’s met it. He is free to live as he chooses.
There’s No Place Like Home
As we’ve studied the Hero’s Journey, we’ve watched it unfold for Dorothy in the Land of Oz in the timeless favorite by L. Frank Baum. Her travels represent the classic tale of transformation as she pursues her goal to help her friends and then return home to Kansas.
In our last installment, we saw that Dorothy had met her goal, bid a tearful goodbye to her friends, and commanded the magical silver slippers to carry her back home to Aunt Em in Kansas.
Instantly Dorothy was whirling through the air and flying over the desert that separated Kansas from the Land of Oz. She tumbled onto the grass of the Kansas prairie, momentarily stunned. She was home.
Life in Kansas had gone on without her while she’d been away on her adventure in the Emerald City. Uncle Henry had built a new house to replace the one carried away in the tornado. Aunt Em was watering the cabbages when Dorothy returned, going about life as usual. What had once seemed mundane was now charming, even comforting.
But we sense that, more importantly, Dorothy has grown. Though the farm seems the same, Dorothy herself is different. She has gained a new appreciation for the common things of her life in Kansas.
Aunt Em is stunned when she sees Dorothy running toward her. She covers the girl with kisses and asks where she’s been. Dorothy simply replies that she’s been in the Land of Oz. She brings a grounded sense of self with her, and she shares her fresh perspective when she blurts out, “Oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be home again!”
By the same token, Dorothy brings her adventures in the Land of Oz back home with her. Her adventures with the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion live on inside her, and she is forever transformed. Her new perspective wouldn’t be possible without them. Just as her travels changed the lives of her friends, her travels in Oz have changed her forever too.
As the adventure draws to a close, the author leads us to believe that Dorothy can never return to the Land of Oz. Her magic slippers were lost in the desert on her way home. Like the Wizard of Oz before her, Dorothy’s adventure has come to an end. She is free to live the life she chooses.
L. Frank Baum went on to write several more books about Oz, including Dorothy, the other original characters, and many more. Though this adventure is complete, the story of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz lives on inside each of us who have shared in the journey of this classic story.
After all, there’s no place like home.
5 Steps to Conclude the Hero’s Journey
- Affirm that the hero has returned across the journey’s threshold and come back home.
- Reunite the hero with characters from his old life.
- Briefly convey where the hero has been.
- Offer the hero’s fresh perspective.
- End the journey.
Using the framework of the Hero’s Journey is a compelling structure for non-fiction authors. Using the revised non-fiction writing framework presented in this series, your writing will have the substance of a thousand tales. It harkens to something primordial in all of us. It speaks to us of transformation and the path to your legacy.
Most of all, it serves as a touchstone so that we may know ourselves just a little better. Writing is funny in that the authors themselves become transformed through their writing journey. Now that we’ve come full circle, what kind of adventure will you craft for your non-fiction book?
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing and the host of the Book Publishing Success podcast show. Bryan works with best-selling business authors, including NYT best-selling authors Chris Widener and Tom Hopkins, plus up-and-coming authors including Johnny Covey. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book on converting website visitors into buyers. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.