What If Your Life Is a Story (and You're the Hero)?

The following activity comes from The Book of What If...?


What if every story you read is, more or less, the same story, just told in different ways? What's the story being told? Change. In a happy story, a funny story, a scary story, or a sad story, the main character always goes through significant changes by the end. People who study stories believe this is to reflect the changes we go through in life. Reading these stories can then prepare us for the changes we face.


What if stories are life? What if your life is a story (and you're the hero!)?


Get curious with this Curiosity Based Learning activity from The Book of What If...?






Question: What if your life is a story and you are the hero?


Action: Below is Stages of the Heroic Journey, a list of the typical stages heroes go through during a story. After reading each one, write out about a time or situation in your own life that matches that stage of the hero's journey.


Keep in Mind: If you are the hero of your story, what if that means everyone else you encounter are the heroes of their stories? How might you interact with other people if everyone knew everyone was a hero?


Deeper Learning: If this perspective into stories makes you more curious about stories, where they come from, and how we can get valuable meaning from them, consider exploring literary theory. This is only one example of how humans have considered interpreting stories... there are other approaches you might find curious.


Challenge:Think of your favorite story. Then read the Stages of the Heroic Journey, pausing at each stage to think (or write!) about how your story's main character experienced each stage. Can you think of an example for each stage? Now think of another story and main character and see if you can do it again. Can you start to see that many stories we enjoy could be considered the same story?


Stages of the Heroic Journey


1. The Ordinary World: Stories usually start by showing the hero in a mundane or unsatisfying world. The hero will often possess some characteristic or ability that sets him or her apart--maybe even making the character uncomfortably different--from those around him or her.


2. Call to Adventure: Something happens in this ordinary world to shake things up. The hero is forced to realize that change is coming... and an adventure is about to begin.


3. Refusal of the Call: Even though the coming change is obvious and inevitable, the hero makes one last attempt to refuse the adventure, to stay home or not leave what's familiar. He or she fears the unknown ahead and may even have a friend or family member warning about leaving.


4. Meeting a Mentor: One of the first occurrences during a hero's adventure is the hero meeting a mentor, or guide. This person is typically much older than the hero and often possesses great intelligence and magical or supernatural abilities. The mentor also gives the hero equipment, training, or advice for his or her adventure.


5. Crossing into the Unknown: This is when the hero completely leaves the place, people, or situation that was familiar and goes to where the people, places, and rules are very strange and different.


6. Allies and Enemies: Once in this new world of the unknown, the hero encounters other people who then become his or her allies or enemies for the course of the adventure.


7. Fear and Death: At some point along his or her adventure, a hero comes close to death or must confront his or her greatest fear.


8. Reward: After overcoming this great fear, or escaping his or her death, the hero is rewarded. Often, this is an object or treasure. The hero shows great joy, and others might celebrate this achievement, but the adventure is not over.


9. The Return: Once the hero has his or her reward, it's time to return home. The hero now begins the journey from this new world back to the place where he or she is from.


10. Rebirth: During the hero's return, he or she must now use what was learned along the adventure (and possibly the reward acquired) to overcome one more obstacle (often facing death again). But this time he or she is more prepared to fact the challenge and appears to be a new person as a result.


11. Return with the Reward: The hero is now home--or where he or she was before leaving on the adventure--a transformed person. The hero is like a person living in two world: back to what is familiar but with the learning obtained from something new. This allows the hero a new freedom. All may not be awesome, bu the hero has changed and is ready for new challenges and adventures.


Curiosity Based Learning

The Book of What If...?

Curiosity Q&A


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