The hero's journey is one of the most beloved and popular story frameworks in books and film. Today we have 25 prompts with hero's journey story ideas, so you can write your own epic adventure tale!
If you've watched any one of George Lucas's Star Wars films, read or watched any of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books or films then you've experienced the hero's journey. I've walked my creative writing classes through these stories numerous times, helping them identify and emulate the story principles.
Part of what makes these stories so compelling is that they follow a character from their ordinary life into an adventure they couldn't have imagined, leading to personal transformation.
You can see David Stafford's (our resident expert on Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey Story Structure) Ultimate Guide to the Hero's Journey here if you want to see a complete breakdown of the heroic journey that creates these character arcs.
While there are twelve stages or phases in a traditional hero's journey story, I've organized these prompts in the three essential stages: the departure, the initiation, and the return. You can combine these into a story or use them individually to fuel just one section of your larger story.
Try one and see how it pushes your character out of their normal life and into a hero venture!
Hero's Journey Story Ideas for the Departure
This opening stage is all about establishing a would-be hero's everyday life, revealing the status quo, and then disrupting it. What's expected of this character in their current state? What do they believe about themselves?
The departure stage requires the hero to leave that mundane life, that familiar world behind to begin their adventure that will happen in a series of stages. The departure includes: the Ordinary World, the Call to Adventure and Refusal of the Call, Meet the Mentor, and the Crossing of the Threshold.
1. Create a scene where your character is frustrated or in trouble at their current workplace or home. Avoid a wake-up scene unless you can make it compelling.
2. Show your character doing their favorite activity when it gets interrupted with something inconsequential.
3. Show your character interacting with a pesky sibling, challenging family member, or sometimes friend.
4. What problem will arise in your character's community that will necessitate them leaving home to solve it?
5. Create a major threat to your character's favorite place or person, preferably one that could be extended to the entire community.
6. Describe the insecurities that plague your character, focusing on ones that will inform their refusal of the call to adventure.
7. Create a mentor (or two or three!) that will inspire your character to think beyond their current limitations and plant a seed of inspiration. What kind of person or being will best speak into your character's specific fears?
8. Write the scene where the character accepts the call and leaves home to begin the adventure.
Hero's Journey Story Ideas for the Initiation Stage
This next part, the initiation, is usually the longest in a story, loosely from the inciting incident to the end of the climax (and immediate repercussions). This is a place to play—get creative with the trials, the complications, and the ultimate battle.
9. Make a list of your hero's strengths and weaknesses. Now, create a trial or an antagonist that can challenge each of those traits.
11. Create a fantastical challenge or physical obstacle in the world where your story is set. Drop your hero and one other character into the situation and force them to fight their way through it.
12. Write a scene where the hero faces something they think will be easy, but it challenges them in an unexpected (and humbling way).
13. How will your character take on a new physical look during the initiation phase? How will their build, clothing, features change? Write the description, including an outline of how it happens.
14. Create a creature who the hero will approach as a threat. What happens in the face-off? Will the creature remain foe? or become a friend?
15. The character archetype of the shadow (sometimes called the villain) appears during the approach to the inmost cave. The villain is the dark side of the hero. Write a scene where the hero misuses their power and prowess—then see if you can adapt it for the shadow OR use it to help the hero grow.
16. Write a scene where the hero faces their toughest foe, the scene where they are not sure they can beat evil.
17. Consider how the fight has become even more personal for the hero. Write about what they believe they are fighting for now. Make sure the stakes are high.
Hero's Journey Story Ideas for the Return
Finally, the Return stage shows off how our hero has changed, how the internal transformation has now manifested as an external change as the hero fully embraces their new status and learning.
18. Write a scene (or a list!) where the hero recounts what they have lost on the journey.
19. Write a scene where the hero has achieved what they hoped, but somehow it falls short of what they thought it would be to them.
20. Write out the worst thing that could happen on the hero's way back home. How will they face it?
21. Describe (or draw!) a map of the hero's way home. Will they return the same way or go a new direction? What have they learned?
22. Write a scene where your hero makes a significant sacrifice to defeat evil, preferably on behalf of their community.
23. Write a scene where the hero encounters a setback on their way home, either physical or relational. Make sure they are using their newfound confidence to solve the problem.
24. Make a list of possible “elixirs” or rewards your hero could bring back from their adventure. Think about what is broken or important to their community and what that physical object will mean to them. Choose one elixir and write the moment the hero presents it.
25. Write a hero's celebration feast scene.
Now you try!
The hero's journey structure can push you as a writer to focus on character development in addition to its opportunities for action and world building. Try one of these prompts today in your writing time and see where it leads!
Choose one of the prompts above. Set your timer for fifteen minutes and write. When finished, post your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop here, and I hope you'll share feedback and encouragement with a few other writers. Help those heroes shine!
Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveler with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.