I started reading those two books because they seemed to be referenced all the time on the writing blogs I read; might as well get to know the source material, right?
Hulk has some excellent wisdom in his rant regarding Joseph Campbell’s work.
..THE PROBLEM WITH JOSEPH CAMPBELL’S THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES IS NOT IT’S LACK OF ACCURACY, BUT INSTEAD WHAT WE DO WITH THE INFORMATION IT PROVIDES. CHIEFLY, THE FACT THAT OUR SOCIETY HAS OVERTLY ADOPTED THE BOOK’S BREAKDOWN OF THE HERO JOURNEY AS SOME KIND OF READY-MADE APP FOR “PAINT BY NUMBERS” STORYTELLING.
This is exactly what’s been bothering me about The Hero With a Thousand Faces. No, wait, the book isn’t bothering me, it’s what I’ve read people saying about how the book applies to writing that has been bothering me. (The book is fantastic!)
Just because there are patterns inherent to how people tell stories doesn’t mean those patterns are a guideline for story telling; no, for GOOD story telling. There should be enough familiarity that your audience isn’t left floundering but not enough familiarity that your audience can predict the bulk of your story based on the set-up.
When I think about some of my favourite stories they’re usually ones that surprise me. At the moment, Community is my favourite television program precisely because I’m not sure what they’re going to throw at me next.
The Hero With a Thousand Faces is a good, if academic, read and I suggest you read with a highlighter in your hand because, if my copy is any indication, there are gems in there you’ll want to refer back to.