Ross Grayson Bell – Writing for a Screenplay versus a Novel (pt 3)

The Hero’s Journey

One way of telling a story.

Stage 1 – The Ordinary World 

Stage 2 – Call to adventure 

  • What is the call to adventure? 
  • What new force appears to challenge hero? 
  • How is hero’s flaw tested? 

Stage 3 – Refusal of the call 

  • Heroes initially reject the call to adventure 

Stage 4 – Meeting the mentor 

Stage 5 – Crossing the threshold into the Secret World 

  • This takes the hero into Act II 

Stage 6:  Tests, Allies & Enemies 

  • Entering the special world, hero must survive a succession of trials – prepare for ordeals ahead 
  • The new rules of the special world need to be learned quilt by the hero and the audience 
  • A period of testing – continuation of the mentor’s training 
  • Heroes are freshman again in this new world 
  • Enemy is alerted to the hero’s role 

Stage 7:  Approach the Innermost Cave 

  • Dark night of the soul is crucial 
  • Heroes have made adjustments to the special world – no go on toe seek its hard 
  • The mysterious zone is the place to make plans, do reconnaissance, arm one’s self, make final preps for supreme ordeal 
  • No matter how the hero tries to escape his fat, so th exits are close off and the life-and-death trial is face 

Stage 8: Supreme Ordeal 

  • This central crisis – the point at which hostile forces are in the tenses state of opposition 
  • Where our characters face their greatest fear 
  • After crossing this crisis zone, the heroes is literally or metaphorically reborn 
  • New self can’t be born until the old one dies 
  • Supreme Ordeal signified deal of the ego 

Stage 9:  The Reward 

  • Consequences of surviving death 
  • Respect before the ordeals coming in the climax 
  • Often this is where the hero makes love 
  • Campfire scenes in a western 

Stage 10:  The Road Back 

  • Once lessons and rewards of the great ordeal have been celebrated and absorbed 
  • Hero faces choice of remaining in Special World or journeying home to the Ordinary World 
  • A plateau of comfort – heroes must be pried off that plateau by their own inner resolve 
  • Or an external force propels her out of the Special World drastically redirects the story 
  • Crossing of the Threshold from Act II to III 

Stage 11:  Resurrection Climax 

  • Heroes go through a final purging / purification 
  • An additional moment of death and rebirth 
  • Second and final climax – se if hero has retained the learning from Supreme Ordeal 
  • Difference between this and Supreme Ordeal? 
  • Threat not just to hero, but entire world 
  • The climax is when Hero is the most conscious 

Stage 12:  Return with Elixir 

  • If a traveler doesn’t bring something back, they’re not heroic 
  • Live is one of the most powerful elixirs 
  • Another aspect of the elixir is bringing back wisdom to share 
  • Another elixir is for the hero to take wider responsibility, giving up their loner status for a place of leadership or service within a group 


  • Can’t use when you should be showing 
  • Sometimes it can work, when it is explaining (enhancing) 

Final thoughts: This was an interesting workshop, and I think valuable for those who haven’t done one before. However I feel that the one a few years ago by Alexandra Sokoloff, ‘Screenwriting Tips for Authors‘, was more targetted for romance authors and was more detailed in how the structure of a movie could be translated into a novel (and using system cards!). In fact, it’s still hands down the best structure workshop I’ve done (and I have done some very good other workshops).

I also think that the workshop was perhaps targetted at a slighly different level audience, perhaps the presenter wasn’t used to a room full of already published authors (including a bunch of NYT best sellers, at least for a while). He seemed often surprised that people could respond to his questions, and in fact anticipate them. And he didn’t understand (until told) that Out of Africa isn’t actually a romance – there’s no HEA (that’s a ‘happily ever after’ for those who aren’t up on the terminology). He was quite opened to being advised of the difference between a romance and a love story, but I felt it was perhaps something that should have been researched before the conference. Just sayin’.

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