- Paperback: 228 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 10, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1548628247
- ISBN-13: 978-1548628246
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ultimate Hero's Journey: 195 Essential Plot Stages Found in the Best Novels & Movies
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“The Ultimate Hero’s Journey” is delightful, well written very readable analysis of the plot stages of books and movies. In a very nice introductory chapter Neal in a few concise, well chosen words lays out the basic structure of a good story (not chronicles or reports). Neal uses the traditional set up of 0) Hook, 1) Setup, 2) Reaction, Epiphany, Proaction, 3) Climax, and 4) Denouement. He follows these with the types of stages found in books and movies, like plot, repetitive, symbolic. These are all well explained.
Neal then throws us into a sequential listing of the 195 plot stages he found in examining books and movies. Each plot stage is on one page, matching the page numbers. Each plot stage is briefly explained, and then expanded upon by using detailed analysis of the plots of 5 movies. The movies he uses are “Star Wars,” “The Matrix,” “Harry Potter,” “Sideways,” and “Dodgeball.” This makes for exciting reading as we get the fairly complete plot outlines of each of these 5 very different movies. And while it is not quite like watching the movies themselves, those movies are full of action, emotions, and drama all of which Neal summarizes according to his 195 plot stages.
Neal’s observations of plot structure are fun and readily applicable for most authors. Neal uses the five movies to good purpose. The examples of plot structure in each plot stage all well exemplify Neal’s plot stages. The reader can easily understand how the various threads and bits of action fit together to make up a good story.
Neal claims that movies and novels on the average have about 60 scenes and each scene comprises thee stages (plot stages) of the hero’s journey. Also, Neal claims that the best stories have at least 80% of his plot stages. And these 5 movies, examined under Neal’s plot stages, bear that out.
While the plot stage analysis varies from the more common discussion of three arcs and other devices, this system actually, in my opinion, is very compatible with that discussion. And Neal does briefly refer into the arc system even breaking his 195 plot structures into 4 acts.
I recommend this book for newer authors, and for anyone wanting to explore how narration works. But I would recommend reading this in conjunction with one of the more conventional 3 arc analysis books to fully grasp the construction of narrative.
Soloponte’s book has helped to fill in some major gaps in my understanding as a beginning CREATIVE writer. He started with concepts documented by Joseph Campbell and Vladimir Propp, but expands the classic “Hero’s Journey” from a dozen or so stages to 195. At first, I was skeptical that all of these stages were really necessary. But the way he describes them, they really are distinct – although many of them have similarities, and they could realistically overlap quite a bit in a typical narrative structure.
Every page of the book describes ONE of the 195 stages, with examples from several well-known films to help make the point. While reading the book, I recognized that The Dark Crystal, The Terminator, and Tron also fit the paradigm that Soloponte was describing. And after I finished reading the book, I saw Wonder Woman at my local cinema, and was able to anticipate several of the stages that I would previously not have known about. To me, this was proof that Soloponte knows what he is talking about – and that Hollywood, indeed, does follow the stages that he describes.
The 195 stages described in this book are probably massive overkill for writing a typical short story. But for a novella or longer work, I anticipate that they will be extremely useful for fleshing out a plot. I recommend this book for other beginning writers like myself, who are working to attain a better understanding of plotting, for getting past a stubborn roadblock in a story they are writing, and for becoming a better observer of the structure of longer works (including films) by other authors.
What I felt the book could've benefited from, though, was a focus beyond epic stories. Sure, the Hero's Journey *is* a blueprint for epic adventures (like Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc.) but it's also a (loose) blueprint for *every* story ever told. Having the author extend his (extensively documented) theories on the subject to *those* stories -- from thrillers to murder mysteries to romance, etc. genres -- would've made the book more worthwhile. Perhaps he plans a sequel. Nonetheless, the book is definitely worth reading; it's just less useful than it could be.
By the way, if you want to read an excellent broader view of the subject which (in some ways) is actually *more* accessible than this book, Mariner Software publishes a program called Contour which is a software application of this theory. What you want is not the software itself (it's not that great), it's the *manual* for the software because it walks you through not only (their version of) the theory but the practical application of it across genres. There's a free trial on their website of the program and it includes this manual.
Long story short: I almost doubled the word count because I filled the holes in my own work by following the stages described in this book.