The physical and emotional threads of the archetypal hero's journey: proposing common terminology and re-examining the narrative model | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1759-7137
  • E-ISSN: 1759-7145


This article will discuss how, in mainstream film screenplays, the protagonist undergoes both an actual, physical journey and an internal, emotional journey, pulled together by the invisible hand of the screenwriter in order to create the complete narrative experience. Central to the article is an evaluation of how character transformation (arc) is positioned against physical action (plot), arguing that the two can be mapped out as individual yet symbiotic threads of a narrative: the physical and the emotional journeys.

After mapping the territory of what is already written on this subject, the works of Joseph Campbell and his protg Christopher Vogler (Clayton 2007: 210) will be drawn together to offer a re-examination of the model of the Hero's Journey. Assessing these two narrative threads (physical and emotional) as both distinct and symbiotic, it will be clear that a special relationship exists between plot and character, where character transformation is encouraged to take place within the frame of the physical action of the plot. The substance of such a transformation, the emotional core of the narrative experience, is what lives on in the audience, post-text; the physical action of a film story may frame emotion, but emotion has the power to break the frame and take on a life of its own.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): character arc; emotional journey; narrative; physical journey; story; structure
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