Every Story is the Same


human Society runs on stories they create our reality [the] way we as Individuals see the world they make [us] sad they make us happy they inspire us It’s no surprise that Hollywood TV and books bring in hundreds of billions of dollars each year And it’s no surprise that the entire nation except for Ohio was rooting [for] the cubs the eternal underdogs Finally had their shot It’s why day in and day out most people want to live the best story they can we love good stories at this point in Human history It feels like there are infinite stories, and we’re told they’re all different But what if I told you the basic structure of all of those stories is the same? I’m not talking about the stuff [that] ends up making them different like style. Just a basic structure for every story That’s ever been recognizable as a story well many people have tried different formulas But perhaps no one has done it better than the widely respected Philosopher and Theologian Joseph Campbell he developed the monomyth also known as the Hero’s journey Which he lays out in his masterwork a hero with a thousand faces Joseph Campbell’s hero with a thousand faces. It wasn’t a screenwriting book It was just a book about a guy who grew up a boy scout in a catholic who was really passionate about these native American Stories who started noticing similarities between parables about christ and like these native American folktales that Predated Christ, and also had no way of of being touched by Christian culture So he started you know his life work became comparative mythology and mythology doesn’t isn’t just stories around a campfire It’s it’s pop music. It’s it’s the dream You’re describing to your friend on the subway It’s it’s it’s drawings on a napkin it’s it’s it’s basically everything indeed after years and years of studying Campbell concluded there are characteristics of an effective story and those characteristics are consistent regardless of Religion Race time or ancestry It’s nothing short of genius [but] what if you could simplify his monomyth into an even more basic? Structure one that helps anyone build a story well dan harmon who we were just listening to did exactly that He created the story circle a distillation of the monomyth into eight steps he believes his circle is Universal for any story in any medium before we get to the eight steps he sets out I want to bring the circle back to its most basic form To first understand the theory behind it so we have a circle And we draw a horizontal line through it the top of the circle represents where the [character’s] journey starts and finishes the bottom represents The world that needs to be traversed in order to grow and change In a basic sense this is the ordinary world, and this is the special world So why this ritual of descent in return well for Harman every story has a rhythm or balance he lays out three Dualities to explain this the first being life and death take for example the story of life You’re alive And then you’re dead then your dead body decomposes and feeds plants giving new life Which then dies that’s a story it goes back and forth they rely on each other a balance is needed for things to happen Same goes for the next one he lays out consciousness and unconsciousness [upstairs] in your consciousness things are comfortable [well-lit] And regularly swept downstairs in the basement is your unconscious where it’s older Darker and much freakier. It’s the stuff You don’t want [and/or] can’t think about however your pleasure your sanity [and] even your life depend on occasional round trips ventures by the ego into the unconscious through therapy meditation Confession sex violence or a good story keep the conscious in working order just like the health of an individual depends on the egos regular descent and return to and from the unconscious a Society’s longevity Depends on actual people journeying into the unknown and returning with ideas in their most dramatic Revolutionary form these people are called heroes but [everyday] Society is replenished by millions of people diving into darkness and emerging with something new or forgotten to [Harman] all Stories follow this pattern of [descent] and return of diving and emerging as he says all life Including the human mind and the communities. We create marches to the same pick beat if the story marches to this beat it will resonate it will send an audience’s ego on a brief trip to the Unconscious and back the audience has an instinctive taste for that, and they’re going to say yum But how does one venture between these dualities in order to create a story let’s build the rest of our circle? We draw a vertical line down the center now We have four intersections and four spaces or quadrants starting at the top and going clockwise We number the four points where the lines cross the circle one three five and seven now we number the quarter sections Themselves two four six eight each number has a label, and they’ll take us through the story piece by piece One you a character is in a zone of comfort to need they want something Three go they enter an unfamiliar Situation for search adapt to it five find get what they wanted six take Pay a heavy price for it seven return then return [to] their familiar situation eight Change having [change] now each of the semicircles has an important meaning Crossing from one half to the other these are major sources of drama in the story from top to bottom you Delineate the moment that the hero enters a new situation And is forced to adapt often struggling to do so this usually means that the protagonist Fights some external force the second line is defining the inner struggle of the hero once the hero crosses this dividing line He or she finally faces and tries [to] overcome his or her inner flaws or problems if we took for example [die] hard we’d have failing marriage and terrorist attack and left to right we might have Stubborn not stubborn once he descends and returns to here [McClane] No longer Stubborn now has the power to change his failing marriage in simplest terms order Chaos Stasis change now that we have our circle ready. I’d like to apply it to a well-known Story star wars episode four a new hope one you establish a protagonist when a story starts the audience is just Loading like a ghost [you] have to give them some place to land [how] do you do this how do you put the audience? Into a character easy you just show one is fade in on them, and we are them until we have a better choice Okay, let’s go To need something ain’t quite right this is where we find out something is off balance in the universe [no] matter how large or small that universe is if this is a story about war between Earth and aliens This is where we see the ship coming toward Earth if it’s rom-com our protagonist is on a terrible blind date We’re learning that things aren’t perfect and things could be better. This is [the] reason why the story is going to take place? What’s this? What is what? He asked [her] a question. [what] is that? You must learn [the] ways of the force If you were to come with me to alderaan three go crossing [the] threshold What’s the story really about the you was in a certain situation and now that situation changes a terrorist attack? occurs a small-town girl leaves for the Big City remember that the top half of the circle represents the Ordinary World while the bottom half represents the special world It doesn’t matter how small or large the story is but there needs to be contrast between these two worlds I want to come with you to alter There’s nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the force and become [a] Jedi like my father for search the road of trials the protagonist doesn’t need to literally train during this it’s where they adapt an experiment in a hero with a thousand faces Campbell actually uses a digestive tract [braking] a person down taking out certain neuroses stripping them [of] fear and desire Nothing can save you here. I glasses credit cards promotion cell phones the purpose has become refreshingly simple We’re headed to the deepest level of the unconscious mind, and we can’t reach it if we’re surrounded by all the stuff We think is important? why are we still in each ward a [contractor] that’s pulling us in There’s got to be something you can do nothing I can do about it get a full car have a shutdown Go out for two you close all outboard shields Five find meeting with the goddess the job of the road of trials is to prepare you for the meeting with the goddess This is what Joseph Campbell called this part of the story And that’s why [hartmann] kept it our hero in making just found out what they’re looking for Even if it wasn’t what they thought they were looking for this is where the big revelation happens where there’s the greatest vulnerability [whatever] you call it this is a very special pivot point the protagonist hovers here makes a choice and Descends the goddess can be a gesture an idea a gun a person or a destination whether it was the direct conscious goal Or not the need from [to] is fulfilled boy who wants to adventure rescues princess check? Who who is he? Princess Leia the Princess she’s here the droids belong to her. She’s the one of the message We gotta help her no look don’t get any funny ideas the old man wants us to wait right here he didn’t know she was here, [and] we just I’m luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you Mm-Hmm. I’m here to rescue you. I’ve got your R2 unit. I’m here with Ben Kenobi. Then Kenobi where it come on six take meet your maker This is the hardest part [it’s] when you realize something is really Important to the point where it’s more important than you you [gained] full control Over your destiny in the first half of the circle you’re reacting to the forces of the universe Adapting changing seeking now you’ve become the universe you’ve become that which makes things happen [on] one hand This is the price of the journey the shark eats the boat [he] lose a friend on the other hand a goal achieved that we Never even knew we had the shark now has an oxygen tank in its mouth the friend has given you time to complete the mission Come on. R2 we going seven returned bringing it home for some stories This is as simple as waking up or others it’s someone who needs to be pulled out of an extreme situation The Hero runs out of an apartment to stop a wedding. There’s a huge car chase. It’s not a journey if you never come back Can’t believe he’s gone oh they’d have a tighter defense an Analysis of the plans provided by Princess lea has demonstrated a weakness in the battle station eight change Master of both worlds the U is in charge of their situation again, but has now become a situation Changer life will never be the same in an action film. This is the showdown [this] is when the hero gets to the wedding in time to stop it from happening This is when the death star is blown up what I find so [interesting] About the circle is how it can apply to any piece of a story if your writer on a sitcom like Carmen is you’re writing circles for each character and how they traverse the story how they change from top to bottom from left to right as the story moves forward is this the Only way to create [a] story no, but harmon believes that all stories come back to the structure otherwise They’re not recognizable as stories to deconstruct storytelling like this should not make it seem dull or Repetitive or uninspiring harmons work alone is proof that dedicated Storytellers can use this basic structure to tell incredibly complex subversive and consistently meaningful stories in their own style And it’s great stories having a meaningful conversation with a friend or family member Seeing your favorite sports team win a championship or reading a great book [it] [keeps] us all psychologically spiritually and socially alive they find tune as to all aspects of our existence [the] Rhythm of life and Death are Unconscious and unconscious feelings and thoughts the order and Chaos of the world and how they work together [a] great story can change someone’s life So get out there and tell yours Hey, everyone if you enjoyed that Please go check out dan Harmon’s breakdown [of] the circle. He does it in greater depth and in much funnier ways than I could ever do Mostly content of this video comes directly from his breakdown [of] the circle So I’ll link it in the description [if] you appreciate what I do on this [channel] Please consider pledging a dollar or three dollars towards my patreon any amount gives me more time to make more content So thank you so much to the people who have pledged already you are helping make this channel happen Thank you for watching I will see you soon


68 Responses

  1. Mia Spark

    June 23, 2019 3:44 am

    Thank you so much for this video! It made me hit some realisations and I will definitely come back to it when in struggle with writing

  2. parodysam

    June 25, 2019 3:24 pm

    Immediately this isn’t universal, plenty of stories revolve around characters who got sucked into the plot without consent, those “I didn’t ask for this” cases. Another thing about #2 he describes NEED as they want something. It’s strange that a writer wouldn’t have a distinction between the two. A character wants something, they’re fine, but they seek/hope for something more. A character needs something, this is beyond whimsy or greed, the character seeks/hopes for something they can’t go on without. In many cases this distinction develops character. A character realizes that they have to go on a journey, whether they want to or not. Some of characters who started the story wanting something often seem like they caused the conflict upon further analysis. There’s a small amount of Rick and Morty that’s good writing beyond the comedic aspect. I don’t see why we’re treating Dan Harmon like some kind of genius for giving us his “simplified version” (I’m using quotes for emphasis, I’m not saying he said this) of pre-existing story models. I feel that focusing on such models usually results in crummier stories overall. However I do agree with Harmon that vindicators 3 was the worst episode.

  3. k9hannibal

    June 26, 2019 2:32 pm

    Best. Video. Ever. On this topic. Easy to understand vs others I’ve seen. Great job! Thanks!!!! 👍🏼👍🏼

  4. Kilgore Trout

    July 7, 2019 3:59 pm

    Why the hell do all stories have to be about people and their petty tribulations?
    I remember lots of stories from sci fi about grander themes than any one protagonist in the story.
    Do we always have to reduce the media to the minimum common denominator?

  5. Kilgore Trout

    July 7, 2019 4:05 pm

    Not all stories are the same. We just have been brainwashed by the media to accept the same story over and over for the last 40 years or so.

  6. Paul Moore

    July 13, 2019 2:39 pm

    I tried listing the basic plots; good vs. evil, boy meets girl, the evil twin, the stranger in town, destructive pride, etc. I got to about a dozen variations, but they all distilled into one story. It all comes back to discovering who we are and why we are here.

  7. Sharpium

    July 20, 2019 8:56 am

    Make beautiful videos, too bad I understand very little English, now have one more reason to learn english!

  8. M

    July 22, 2019 8:59 pm

    This is the story of Osiris. The story of Marduk.

    The question is why? Why would they tell this story over and over again? For entertainment?

    They wanted to know truth and how they can preserve it for generations within the forces of order and chaos.

    You are American and see order and chaos fearing that Liberty is only a generation away from being lost. However, current culture makes it difficult to know what is right. So you go search for the deepest foundation of this American structure is and is not. What you can see is now what the dead founders saw, you give your vision to the corps of the past and become integrated with the founders. Now you can see how to defeat the ideas of the darkness with the ideas of the light to save a free society. You will soon also die and can only hope the future posterity of Liberty will be able to do the same because the forces of Oder and Chaos never die. If they cannot complete the journey then it’s over for our great experiment of liberty.

    That’s what I think.

  9. Lina B

    July 25, 2019 5:52 pm

    What if the story alredy started in a uncomfort zone? Would the journey just sart at an other point of the circle or would the uncomfort zone would be the normal one cause the protagonist finds this uncomfort zone habitual, even if he isnt quite happy

  10. Gregg Robinson

    July 27, 2019 12:09 pm

    The humanities don't operate like the sciences, in that the "laws" of art aren't universal and unbending; they're more like explications. So if you want to quibble with the universality of Campbell & Harmon's analytical scheme, you can certainly come up with exceptions. That doesn't invalidate it as a powerful analytical tool. And powerful tools are always to be desired.

  11. Bozo

    July 30, 2019 12:25 am

    Those eight words sound like a neanderthal giving a very basic motivational speech about going and getting what you want out of life.
    You need go search find take return change.
    It's like Eat. Pray. Love. for cavemen.

  12. Robert Hendrix

    August 9, 2019 4:37 pm

    Very informative video. I’m wondering if this circle would still apply to an anti-hero’s story? Like Scarface, for example?

  13. Gail Lewis

    August 13, 2019 3:03 am

    I think the only story that doesn't follow this is that of Cincinnatus, who, after achieving greatness in battle just wants to go home and be a farmer again, so he does.

  14. The Letter Bleeds

    August 13, 2019 3:03 pm

    I think you generalize a bit. Arthouse films or experimental stories do not always fit into this "every story is the same" thing. They are usually different and follow non-linear narratives and avoid conventional storytelling.

  15. Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling

    August 19, 2019 9:24 pm

    EVERY film maker needs ti know who Joeseph Campbell is
    i discovered him 30 years ago after watching him in the groundbreaking PBS special THE POWER OF MYTH with Bill Moyers

  16. AngryBrother360

    August 21, 2019 11:13 am

    "Excellent Mr. Schoder!.👏" You can tell how well someone understands their topic by how easily they explain it!.👍

  17. PD Zombie

    September 6, 2019 3:35 am

    Great video, but I dont like Star Wars as an example since it's the most used one to explain the heroe's journey… I would've love to see Die Hard explained… Thanx!!!

  18. my tits

    September 20, 2019 4:10 pm

    the clickbaity nature of this makes me instinctively reflex, but it is still a pretty interesting video. it's not universal, but it is pervasive.
    i think you can simply the circle even more to "there needs to be change." if nothing of substance happens, it'll feel like the story was worthless. at the very least, the story should represent something to think about.

  19. Karina Babe

    September 25, 2019 9:28 pm

    I've always said that. Every story basically says the same thing.. In different ways sort of.. I dunno I was on to something and got lost..

  20. NeroLizard

    September 28, 2019 12:26 am

    The monomyth is generally correct, especially Harmon's version, but certain highly resonating and popular stories do not fit into it. When do ANY of the necessary parts occur in "On the Road"? They don't. The characters don't change, they only ever briefly exit the comfort zone, they're constantly moving in a completely vertical fashion. You could fit the entire life of Kerouac into the monomyth, perhaps, but "On the Road" is a slice of it, it defies the monomyth when analyzed alone.

  21. sourav singh

    October 6, 2019 9:11 am

    i agree with the points mentioned in the cycle,its just that i disagree with order like the movie PRESTIGE by nolan"sometimes there are no clearly defined protagonist in the movie also the movie disagree with many points,maybe what don harmon is trying to say was right for most of the the movies before the 2000's,its even right today for many movies but you can't say it for every movie today..

  22. Ashanti Ghania

    October 17, 2019 10:19 pm

    Not all stories. However, there are classifications. The Heroe's Journey is what's told most in post television Hollywood for the bulk of the audience is 17-24 years old where this pattern applies. If you're looking for originality, see films during Oscar season which is from October-December.

  23. Just Another Nobody

    October 21, 2019 1:21 am

    Everybody is writing full on essay's on the structure of a story and I am just sort of…. here

  24. Earzentail

    October 21, 2019 7:50 pm

    So basically you have clickbaited us just to talk about the "Hero's Journey" archetype.

    Typical YouTube, nothing to see here.

  25. Randall Jewell

    October 26, 2019 7:54 pm

    Stories are just reflections of people. There are common threads in everybody. What makes us human. But to generalize and say every story is the same I think is a bit of a stretch. Common structure and themes may always be there but just as every human needs to drink water not everyone has bottles of Dasani at home.

    Interesting if not a bit demoralizing.

  26. Kishalay Sinha

    October 27, 2019 6:00 pm


    Many secret agents work for Me… pun …


    God magically made GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee a fantastic bestseller overnight by His magical editing. – G


    November 4, 2019 7:25 am

    You might as well say that all stories are the same because they all exist. If you generalize enough, you can place everything in the same category.


    November 10, 2019 2:49 am

    Yes all stories are basically the same. It is the way it was narrated that makes a story line brilliant. And this style of narration separates a good storyteller from a mediocre one.

  29. dreamihad

    November 11, 2019 5:57 am

    This applies to big budget movies and all, but take the original ending for the Grapes of Wrath, or Of Mice and Men. Slaughter House 5…

  30. reizza

    November 12, 2019 4:46 am

    I find it interesting that because we use this intuitively/unconsciously, rather than being something that constrains our story telling it can provide a tool our intuition can use to communicate to our conscious mind more fluidly. It can help move past the moment of sitting in front of a blank page going "… something's not right, something's not working, I can't figure out where I'm trying to go."

  31. whynottalklikeapirat

    November 13, 2019 11:32 pm

    No. Every story is not the same. YOu can reduce it to a question of structure like Campbel did but that is in fact exactly where you ignore all the significant local detail and that different contexts it plays into, and the very different cultural and individual uses that are made of myths and stories across cultures, space and time.

    Campbell was not a trained academic and from an anthropological point of view what he does is not entirely valid. By imposing his proposed pattern as a type of information bias and subjecting it to Freudian analysis at the level of comparison he kind of almost manages to crush the very thing he loves. The monomyth describes transformation but is structurally static in a way that is not characteristic of how cultures or even individuals actually evolve and perform and make use of stories and story elements.

    Campbell in his comparisons actually cherry picks quite a bit and tends to ignore significant difference to focus on how one or two elements of a myth matches the overall pattern he is building. And he interpretes them accordingly.

    This is not to say that his universalism or essentialism cannot have some merit and certainly water tends to run downhill when it comes to storytelling, because we are who we are. But the cultures that these stories come from are vastly and often fundamentally different, and if, coming from one culture you seize on a pattern and map your own generalised interpretation of that onto the culture you are observing – you will be telling the story of you and not that culture. This is an old chestnut in anthropology, which for that same reason is perhaps one of the scientific disciplines most sensitive to the problem.

    Only when you set aside the desire to conflate things along a continuum of sameness, you begin to see the difference in what various patterns signify to different people and different cultures, and the very different dramas of very different world views that are played out under the hood of what may look and feel much like the classic three act structure.

    And that'sactually the interesting part. Any writer knows that it is significant detail and unique attention to minutiae that sets a story apart. We all know that while people deal with the same fundamental life situations – it is the particulars of the individual that matter to us more so than the similarity to the neighbour.

    Campbels work can be useful for a writer even though it is scientifically flawed. It is also formulaic, which I suppose is part of the appeal to professionals, because here is a step by step you can follow and not loose the plot entirely. It will do a fair amount of the work for you.

    But let's not forget that the linear Aristotelian model is not at all the only take on storytelling. Not historically and certainly not in modern times. Art outside the American mainstream takes myriad directions, some beyond all apparent structure,. Can you find some of Campbells elements in most stories? Sure. BUt is what you find always the same simply because they look similar? Are they being used by people in the same way? Can you generalise a freudian psycology to every culture on the planet at all stages of their development? Or is that mode of theorizing itself a cultural narrative, situated, localised, partial and contingent? Much is made of the Oedipus complex. But cultures exist which do not connect childbirth with sexuality, and consequently do not operate with the idea of fathers and fatherhood. Just one example.

    Structure is nice to have when you are building a narrative. And human development and transformation and learning tends to fall along the same spectrum. We share existential circumstances. We have comparable experiences with physics. Yet what some people call a hat to protect against the elements others wear exclusively as protection against evil spirits.

    My students love it when there is a model. Or a step by step method. Or a list of vital characteristics. Something they can put in their notes and use in their assignments and use to grapple with much more complex realities. It's comfortable, and it's simple. They don't like it when the simple dichotomies no longer suffice, when the models break down or must do so in order to make room for more significant detail, ambivalence and contradiction. They don't like when it doesn't add up. Because then you have to think, work hard, be creative, risk confusion and getting lost. You have to muscle through not knowing if there will be an outcome. And you can't just sit down and draw by numbers.

    Campbells essentialism is dated both from an artistic and a scientific point of view. But this is not to say it does not have it's merits and uses and if nothing else the volume of his work is VAST and full of wisdom, inspiration and much else. It just ignores as much as it includes. And at the end of the day it is not necessarily a focus on similarity that will bring about new insight. Campbell knew this: he names the monster "hold-fast". That which refuses to move and change as the wheel turns.


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