To start, the writer always wants to focus on the mythic journey of the Hero, or protagonist, for this is the character that drives the entire story and that the audience will primarily relate to. Are you at odds with the Hero’s Journey? The Hero’s Journey is all about life, death, rebirth and transformation. The Hero’s Journey is a magnification of the Rites of Passage where the initiate experiences the full gamut of these life mysteries.
In myths, character archetypes are bigger than life. In movies audiences seek characters they can empathize with that do heroic things; that, in turn, make them bigger than life. For example look at the Greek hero, Theseus. He is the one who entered the inescapable labyrinth and battled and destroyed the monster Minotaur. Thanks to Ariadne’s aid, Theseus escaped the inescapable and saved future Greek youths who would have been fed to this beast.
What does being a protagonist entail? Myths show us that the hero is the one who has been able to battle past his / her personal and local historical limitations. This is what your protagonist is called to do regardless of the world you have placed him or her in. In Julie & Julia, both characters have to battle past their own doubts of self-worth and perceived limitations. Do you think Nora Ephron was familiar with mythology when she crafted the adaptation of this story? You know she was.
Myth doesn’t help just with the deepening and design of the Hero, but of all characters in your story. All characters resonate with the Controlling Idea or Premise and all characters are there to teach the Hero the theme in one way or another.
For instance, do you understand the Trickster, another mythic archetype that appears in thousands of plays and films? Meet the cherubic Hermes and his pranks and you will see how the trickster energy works. The Trickster archetype is also commonly portrayed in fairy tales as the dummling, fool, or village idiot. Often it is this fool who reveals the key wisdom. Remember Spike (Rhys Ifas) in Notting Hill? In random unpredictable ways, it was Spike who said exactly what the protagonist, Will Thacker (Hugh Grant), needed to hear to further him on his journey.
So many films today lack cohesiveness, substance, and relevance because they tend to merely recycle worn-out clichés that trivialize and marginalize the true heroic quest. Myths contain those unchanging constants of the human condition. If you learn how to mine the wealth myths have to offer, your stories are more likely to avoid these pitfalls and truly reflect the enduring human spirit.
Margo Meck is a published author and received her Ph.D. in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA. Her lectures have included such topics as Personal Mythology, Proof of Identity in Myth and Fairytale, and Psyche and Nature. She teaches the importance of mythology to enhance story quality through the mythically based Hero’s Journey, Character Archetypes, and Mythic Motifs.