ordinary world - stage one of hero's journey
Writing craft

Stage I: Ordinary World

What is the Ordinary World?

The Ordinary World is the first stage of your hero’s journey and thus the story’s opening. Its function is to set the tone of the story, suggest where it’s going, and get across all necessary information without slowing the pace.

The Ordinary World gives your audience the context, home base, and the hero’s background. It establishes what the hero’s life looks like before embarking on the journey (before entering the Special World).

It serves as CHARACTER and THEME INTRODUCTION. During revision or outlining, check if your Ordinary World scenes answer the following questions:

  • Who is the protagonist?
  • What does their daily life look like?
  • What are their hopes and dreams?
  • What is missing from their life?
  • aka: What do they lack?
  • What will this story be about?
  • Is it going to be light-hearted or heavily philosophical?
  • What is the genre and style of the story?

Also, pay attention to BACKSTORY AND EXPOSITION. The Ordinary World is the most information-packed stage of the journey. It is important that the information is conveyed organically and at a pace (and quantity) that doesn’t overwhelm the audience. A good tip is to try to show as much as you can through character actions instead of outright telling us. You know, the good old show don’t tell principle.

Bonus: Think of what the reader’s expectations are at this stage.

It’s always good to meet them or play around with them – but make sure you don’t disappoint your audience by making promises you cannot keep later on.

Before you go…

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See you next week with the next stage of the Hero’s Journey!

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