Four Things To Consider Before Self-Publishing

Last year, at a writer’s conference, most of the people I encountered had a very negative attitude towards self-publishing.  “Ugh.  Self-publishing.  Only loser writers who write crappy books would do that.”  I admit that I didn’t want to self-publish because of this stigma.  But that was before I stumbled across a book called Wool this year.

For those of you who haven’t read this book yet, it’s a fascinating story about a post-apocalyptic society that lives in underground silos.  The author’s name is Hugh Howey.  His amazing success has turned him into the poster child for self-publishing.

As a business person, I am completely intrigued by Howey’s success.  It would make a great case study for a business school.  Howey developed a great product (a novella), priced it at $0.99, and then released it directly to customers through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.  Then he just sat back and waited while pure market forces took control.  Sure enough, over time, Wool gathered steam on Amazon.  In fact, it gathered so much steam, that Howey was prompted to write more installments for this series.  He eventually sold enough books to quit his day job and focus entirely on writing.

This is every new writer’s dream come true.  If this is what happens when an author self-publishes, please sign me up!  But wait a second.  Before all of us stampede over to Amazon and unleash our precious works of art on the masses, here are a few things we should consider:  (The 4 P’s, if you’re a marketing person.)

PRODUCT:  Obviously, your story has to be really good.  Like, really, really good.  No one will buy a bad product.  But from a marketing perspective, the product should satisfy a customer’s need.  So what need did Howey satisfy for his readers?  Well, if you’re a writer, then you’re a reader.  What are YOUR needs as a reader?  I think that Howey just wrote a story that he himself wanted to read.  Fortunately for him, there were many readers who shared his interests.  So satisfy your own needs as a reader and trust that on a planet with 7 billion people, there are other readers who will share your interests.

PRICING:  This is an interesting dilemma.  So many authors are using the free/$0.99 strategy to get their books into circulation that they may be sabotaging themselves.  Customers buy stacks of ebooks and let them sit unread on their Kindles.  Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, I don’t want people to just buy a book I wrote.  I actually want them to READ IT.  So, I’m not sure that the free/$0.99 strategy is something I would pursue for all of my content.  HOWEVER, I do think that an unproven author will have to give away some content for free.  But how much?  One chapter?  Two chapters?  The entire first book in a series?  I think it depends on how many books you’ve written.  Howey essentially gave away the first installment in his Wool series and then raised the price in subsequent installments.  This may be the path I pursue, depending on what my finished product (book) is.

PROMOTION:  Let’s get this out in the open.  The dream for any undiscovered author is for his or her book to go viral.  So how does that happen?  I wish I knew the answer to that question.  But I can tell you how it will NOT happen.  By pestering people to buy your book.

No one wants to be pressured into buying something.  How do you feel when someone tries to push a product on you through Facebook or other social media channel?  If you’re trying to sell your book, you probably don’t want to irritate a potential customer.

The most enthusiastic customers find the products that they want on their own.  I think as new authors, we have to send our best efforts out into the universe and then let the readers find us.  This is where I really think “magic” happened for Hugh Howey.  His stories were aimed at entertaining himself, his friends and his family.  Any readers who stumbled across his book were pure gravy.  Obviously, now he’s swimming in a boatload of gravy.

Believe me, this is easier said than done for a control freak like myself!  But I think when you focus all of your energy on selling your book, it takes away energy from actually WRITING your book.  So I’ve been trying to tell myself to trust the universe.  Once I write the book, my readers will find me.  And they’ll find you too.

PLACE:  In marketing, this is really about distribution.  How does a reader gain access your book?  I know this will seem as if I’m contradicting what I said above, but hear me out.  I still think we have to trust that our readers will find us.  But as new authors, we also have to make it as easy as possible for them to find our books.

In Howey’s case, the place was Amazon.  He self-published his first novella in July 2011 and kept on writing other stories.  By October, he noticed that sales of Wool surpassed anything else he had written.  Howey quickly wrote and released four more installments for this series.

So how does this apply to us as new authors?  I know that I have to retrain my middle-aged brain to reevaluate what I consider the optimal location to sell my book.  I have to replace “shelf space” at a bookstore with “footprint” on the web.  And in a cluttered cyberworld, that means creating a series of works instead of just one.  The more works you have, the larger the footprint you’ll have on the web, and the more likely it is that readers will find your work.

TO MY FELLOW WRITERS:  So, that brings me back to the dilemma many of you may face as authors.  The publishing world is changing.  Has the stigma of self-publishing changed too?  Have you self-published your book or are you considering it?  Do you have any helpful suggestions for other new authors out there who are still swirling in this new publishing world?  Please share your thoughts!  I would love to hear them!   

Eris and Manthara: Two Intriguing “Villains” in Mythology

My first exposure to mythology was during a family trip to India.  I was about seven years old when I discovered a stack of comic books called “Amar Chitra Katha” in my cousin’s room.  From the first time I picked one up, I was hooked.  The stories about heroes from Indian mythology were mesmerizing.  All I wanted to do was read as many of those Amar Chitra Katha comics as I could before we returned to the U.S.

I stumbled across Greek and Roman Mythology the summer before eighth grade.  There was a well-worn copy of Edith Hamilton’s book, Mythology, at the library.  The timing of my discovery was fortunate, because my eighth grade English teacher discussed the subject for a large portion of the school year.  I’ve been addicted to Greek and Roman mythology ever since then.

Decades have passed (literally, because I am that old!) and I still can’t get certain characters out of my head.  Two female characters in particular have always intrigued me:  Eris, the Goddess of Discord, and Manthara, the servant of Queen Kaikeyi.  They originate from two very different cultures, but their stories bothered me for the same reason.  Both women were vilified for causing wars.  But the stories rarely discuss what spurred these women into setting the wars in motion.


In Greek Mythology, Eris was the Goddess of Discord.  There are two explanations of her origins.  One is that Eris was the daughter of Zeus and Hera.  The other story, which I am more inclined to agree with, is that she was the daughter of Nyx (Night).  Either way, Eris wasn’t known for being fun at parties.  She left mayhem and destruction in her path, so the Olympians tried to avoid her.

All hell broke loose when Eris discovered that she wasn’t invited to the wedding of Thetis, a sea goddess (or Nereid), and Peleus, a mere mortal.  She showed up at the reception and tossed a golden apple inscribed with the words “For The Fairest” into the middle of the banquet hall.  This caused the chaos that she wanted among the goddesses in attendance.  Eventually, three major goddesses were left standing:  Aphrodite (Goddess of Love), Athena (Goddess of Wisdom) and Hera (Goddess of Marriage).

The three goddesses asked Zeus to decide who was the fairest.  Zeus, who didn’t ascend the throne of Olympus by being stupid, refused to make the judgment.  He told them to find some poor schmuck named Paris, a royal prince of Troy, since he was an excellent judge of beauty.  The three goddesses appeared before the unsuspecting Paris, who was tending his father’s sheep.  Instead of asking him to judge their beauty, the goddesses offered him a variety of bribes.  Hera offered to make Paris the ruler of Europe and Asia.  Athena stated that Paris would lead the Trojans to a glorious victory in a battle with their archenemy, the Greeks.  Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world.  Her name was Helen of Sparta.  Apparently, Paris was a lover, not a fighter, because we all know which bribe he selected.  And thus began the Trojan War.

On the surface, this story never made sense to me.  Why would the Olympians intentionally antagonize their resident “shit stirrer?”  Zeus had to know that Eris, of all goddesses, was going to get revenge.  Sure enough, after a little digging, I came across a site called Mythogora that finally provided me with a satisfactory answer.  According to this site, Zeus wanted a war that would eliminate the demi-gods, who were “unholy” unions between gods and mortals.  He used Eris (and his own demi-god daughter Helen) to ignite the events that would lead to the Trojan War.


The Ramayana is one of the two most influential epic tales in India.  (The other one is the Mahabharata.).  At a very basic level, it is a narrative example of how men and women should conduct themselves when pursuing dharma or the “right” way to live.  The Sage Valimiki, who is also a character in this story, is given credit for writing this 24,000 verse Sanskrit poem.  For me to say that the Ramayana is comparable to the Odyssey and the Illiad probably underestimates the influence that it has on current Indian culture.  Both the Ramayana and certainly the Mahabharata are closer to the Bible in terms of influence on Indian society.

The Ramayana, or “Rama’s Journey” is the story of one of the Lord Vishnu’s avatars named Rama.  (NOTE:  An avatar is a earthly incarnation of a god in Indian mythology.)  I won’t discuss the entire story in this post, because it is LONG, but this is the ultimate tale of good prevailing over evil.  Rama’s wife Sita was abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.  An epic battle ensued between Rama and Ravana.  Rama ultimately won the battle, slayed the beast, and saved the girl.

One of the most pivotal characters in the Ramayana is Manthara.  She was the loyal maid to one of the King’s three queens, Kaikeyi.  When Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, decided to coronate his eldest son Rama by Queen Kausalya, every person in the kingdom of Ayodhya was happy.  Well, almost everyone.

Manthara, who was a servant and had nothing to gain or lose by the coronation, was outraged by the news.  Her mistress, Queen Kaikeyi also had a son with King Dasharatha.  Manthara, in a fit of misguided loyalty, states that Kaikeyi’s son Bharata should be crowned king instead of Rama.

Although originally happy about Rama ascending the throne, Kaikeyi slowly succumbs to Manthara’s insidious henpecking.  King Dasharatha once granted Kaikeyi two “boons” for saving his life.  Manthara convinces Kaikeyi to cash in those favors with the King.  Kaikeyi uses the first boon to seat Bharata on the throne and uses the second boon to banish Rama to a forest for fourteen years.  Rama’s loyal wife Sita follows him to the forest where she is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana, thereby setting the events in motion that led to the war.

This story has always wanted to make me pull my hair out of my head for MANY, MANY reasons, but I’ll just discuss one in this post.  If Manthara had never meddled, Rama would have sat on the throne and Sita never would have been kidnapped.  What on earth provoked Manthara’s behavior?  Were Rama or Sita ever cruel to her?  Not likely, since they are supposed to be the human embodiments of everything virtuous.  Was she trying to please Queen Kaikeyi?  No, because until those Manthara’s poison dart whispers started, Kaikeyi was happy about Rama’s coronation.  So what was it?

Fortunately, before I succeeded in losing all of my hair, I found a reasonable explanation in comment sections on a few Indian websites.  I still have to verify its accuracy, but this explanation makes more sense to me.  Once again, the gods were behind the scenes, pulling the strings and letting a woman take the fall.  The Devas, or gods in Indian mythology, were alarmed by the prospect of Rama ascending the throne.  Rama’s sole purpose as an avatar was to come to earth and slay the demon king Ravana.  Apparently, if Rama was coronated king of Ayodhya, it would have interfered with his demon-slaying.  So all of the Devas went running to Saraswati, the Goddess of Wisdom, who came up with a plan.  Saraswati tampered with Manthara’s thoughts and Manthara infected Kaikeyi.  Rama was banished to the very forest where Ravana was lurking and the rest is mythology.

My Three Revelations About Storytelling

I’m starting to realize a few things about writing and storytelling that I wanted to share in this post:

Writing vs. Storytelling

There’s a difference between being a good writer and a good storyteller.  I used to believe that the two were always interlinked, but recent book successes (cough, cough, 50 Shades of Grey, cough, cough), have proven otherwise.  I haven’t read Fifty Shades.  The subject matter doesn’t interest me, but I do admit that I was intrigued enough by the hype to read a preview of this book on Amazon.  I couldn’t get past the first few pages without growing irritated.  Why on earth is this book selling?  The 1-star reviews on Amazon were written more eloquently than the book itself.  (Plus, they were hysterical.)

But, obviously, the international sales figures for this book speak volumes, so who am I to judge?  E.L. James did something right.  If you can look past the questionable writing and subject matter, which I admit was difficult for me to do, she’s a genius when it comes to connecting with her audience.  Readers identify with her characters.  There are plenty of well-written books gathering dust on the shelves of libraries and bookstores across the nation.  I have to give credit where it’s due.  E. L. James is a phenomenal storyteller and I can learn a lot from her.

Scene Construction

My last post on this blog, I Am The Daughter Of Foreigners, received the most response.  People actually read it and sent me positive comments.  That’s huge compared with the crickets chirping after some of my other posts.  So, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what I did differently on this one so that I can replicate it in future posts.

The bottom line is that I focused on the story.  I wrote for myself.  I had a clear picture of the scene in my head, since I actually lived it.  This post took all of 15 minutes to write.  I spent another 45 minutes polishing it, which included walking away from it and returning to it a few times.  But that post almost wrote itself.

When I went back to analyze it, I noted a few points about how I constructed the scene:

1.  Title:  A few friends told me that they stopped to read it because of the title.

2.  Setup:  The first paragraph setup the story at the Secretary of State’s office and introduced the main characters.

3.  Framing:  I didn’t start the scene too early and I didn’t drag the story on for too long.  I got to the point.

4.  Conflict:  There was an obvious confrontation between me (the Protagonist) and the older couple (the Antagonist).

5.  Resolution:  The “story” had an emotionally satisfying conclusion.  “Justice” was served.

6.  Emotional Premise:  The “racism/immigration” theme of this post would make most anyone’s blood boil.

7.  Information Exposition:  I knew the point that I wanted to make with this post without even thinking about it.

I’m not sure if I can replicate this each time I post something.  Every day of my life isn’t a conflict (thank goodness!).  But I think the takeaway from this is to have a clear picture in your head of the scene and the point that you want to make before writing it.

Selling A Book Will Be Harder Than Publishing A Book

Okay.  Let me be up front about this.  I don’t have a finished manuscript.  I’m nowhere near publication.  But only two months into this blog, I’m starting to realize that it’s hard to get people to read what you write.  There’s so much noise.  How does a person cut through all of that?

As challenging as writing a book is, publication is harder.  As hard as publishing a book will be, selling it is the ultimate challenge.  If I can’t get people to read the FREE content on a 900-word blog, how will I get people PAY MONEY and read 300 pages in a book?  (NOTE:  The assumption is that the free content on a blog is technically well-written and emotionally evocative.  That’s the minimum requirement in this market, and I’m still learning the craft.)

Let’s assume that I’ve written the next Harry Potter book and that it’s been published.  (I know that this is arrogant, but hear me out.)  So what’s the next step?  How do you get readers to actually look between the covers of this supposed jewel if you’re an unknown author?  How did J.K. Rowling, who had her struggles getting HP published, get people to read her book before she became a writing legend?  At some point, no one knew who she was.  How did she break through the barriers to entry?

I’m an engineer.  I like to figure out puzzles and to me, this is the ultimate marketing puzzle.  I will definitely share any insights that I uncover, so stay tuned!  Happy Selling!

Five Ways Karma Changed Me Since Becoming A Mom

A Writing Mama's Journal

Karma has it in for me.  You may not believe me, but it’s true. Since becoming a mother, I’m doing all sorts of things that I swore I would never do. Here are just a few examples of how Karma smacked me back to humble reality:

I never thought I could forget my purchases at the store.    

Last week, I officially lost my mind. I arrived at this conclusion when I nearly pulled out of the grocery store parking lot without my groceries. The teenager behind the customer service counter looked at me with pity when I rushed back inside the store and explained what happened. “Well, it could be worse,” the girl tried to console me, as she handed me my groceries. “At least you didn’t forget your baby in the store.”

Is this my future? Forgetting my children in public places? As I walked out of the…

View original post 1,103 more words

Post 14: My Moral Dilemma About A Child Left Alone In The Car

To the lady who left her son alone in the car,

I don’t know you. I only know that I was angry when I saw your little boy alone in the blue minivan that was parked next to mine this morning.

At first, I didn’t even realize that he was there. I had just dropped off my four-year old son at summer camp. It’s his third day of camp with a new group of kids and he’s still adjusting. So when I walked back to the parking lot, pushing my daughter in her stroller, all of my thoughts were with my son.

As I carried my daughter from the stroller to the parking lot, I glanced over my shoulder. I saw a pair of large brown eyes peering at me from inside the blue minivan parked next to ours. I didn’t really think about it. This school is populated with helicopter parents. I assumed that there was an adult in the car with him. I buckled my daughter into her car seat, before closing the sliding door and turning around. And that’s when I realized that the little boy was alone in the blue minivan.

Your little boy looks like he’s close to my son’s age. Maybe one year younger. All of the tinted windows in your van were rolled down 2-3 inches. You obviously know that today is going to be a hot summer day. It was after 9 A.M. when I saw your son. I could already feel the sun beating down on me as I stood between our two minivans.

Your boy was also standing up. He poked his nose out the window. Maybe he was hot. I didn’t know how long he had been left alone in the car, so I asked him, “Where are your mommy and daddy?”

He didn’t answer me. I found it ironic that you’ve probably taught your son not to speak with strangers. I tried again. “Are they inside the school?”

He hesitated, and nodded. “My mommy is in there.”

Slightly relieved, but irritated, I asked one more question. “Is she dropping someone off ?”

He said something I couldn’t quite make out, but I was under the impression that you, Fellow Mommy, were there for the same reason I was. To drop off an older child at camp.

I told your little boy that I would be in the car right next to him if he needed something, and he nodded again. Then I slipped into the driver’s seat of my minivan and turned on the air conditioning for my own daughter. Because it was already getting that warm.

I admit it. I was pissed off at you. Who would leave a little kid unattended in the car like that? He wasn’t even buckled into his car seat. He was climbing over the front seats like a jungle gym. My knee-jerk reaction was to call the school’s security office and let them handle it.

Yeah, it’s hard having more than one kid at pick-up and drop-off time. I get it. It would be a lot easier if I could just leave my one-year old daughter in the car by herself for a few minutes while I drop her four-year old brother off at camp. And I admit that I’ve thought about it during milder weather. But I wouldn’t do that. Because even though the likelihood of something bad happening is small, it still exists. And I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to my daughter the one time I took the easy way out.

But that’s my choice. And this morning, you, Fellow Mommy, made yours.

So there I sat, in judgment of what I should do about your choice. And that’s the core of what bothered me. Why did you put me in this position? I didn’t want to judge you, but I did. I thought that you did something incredibly stupid. I thought that you took an unnecessary risk. I get that you’re tired and you want one thing to be easy in your incredibly difficult day. Believe me, I understand. But this isn’t the thing that you should make easier on yourself. Get fast food for lunch today. Turn on the TV a little longer this afternoon. But, for God’s sake, don’t leave your kid in the car unattended.

Fellow Mommy, I was torn. The easy thing for me to do would have been to just call campus security and wash my hands of this whole situation. But I didn’t want to do that to you. Because what if you’re actually a really great mother?  What if you would normally never do this?  What if today you just felt tired and overwhelmed? What if you were so close to the breaking point that you made this incredibly stupid decision? Do you deserve to have your children taken away from you by the CPS for one stupid decision? Because these days, something like that could happen.

After ten minutes of waiting and watching, I didn’t think so. You don’t deserve to lose your children. But you do need a warning. So I picked up the phone and called the front desk of the school. After explaining the situation, I told the front desk assistant that I didn’t want you, Fellow Mommy, to get in trouble with the authorities.  The school should warn you not to do this again.

While I was speaking with the front desk, you, Fellow Mommy, approached your minivan, quickly got in without a glance in my direction and drove away. I didn’t get the chance to talk with you, but I did report what you looked like.

Should I have minded my own business and just left your little boy alone? Some people may think so, but it didn’t feel right to just drive away. Did I do the wrong thing by not calling the police? I hope not. Only time will tell. I hope that when the school contacts you and gives you a warning, you’ll do better next time.


This piece was rejected by both Scary Mommy (Rejection #7) and The Mid (Rejection #8).  The lady who rejected it at Scary Mommy called it “thought provoking” but said she didn’t have a place for it.  The person at The Mid just rejected it.  I’m not sure where to go from here.

Post 13: Why I’m Trying To Embrace Rejection

Ah, rejection.  It’s one of the few words that can send chills down the spine of an aspiring writer.  The thought of pouring out my heart onto a piece of paper only to have it be rejected by a stranger via form letter paralyzed me with fear.  Who wants to go through that?  I’m better off waiting until I can write perfectly.  I’m better off waiting until I write the perfect manuscript.

But I’m never going to write perfectly and I’m never going to have the perfect manuscript.  No one can.  Everything about writing is purely subjective, which is why it’s so scary to me.  You just have to pour your heart onto the page and trust that if your writing is meant to reach someone, it will.

Rejection comes with the territory of being a writer.  Even some of the most successful writers were initially rejected.  (Those publishers must be kicking themselves now!).  Take a look at how many times the following authors were rejected before their debut (and ultimately wildly successful) novels were accepted for publication:

L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables):  5 times

J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series):  12 times

Stephanie Meyers (Twilight):  14 times

Stephen King (Carrie):  30 times

Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind):  38 times

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul):  140 times!!!!!!

Being rejected was like a badge of honor.  After giving myself a pep talk, I finally mustered the courage to submit something at the beginning of May.  But alas, one week later, it was rejected.  So I submitted something else.  And once again, after one week, it was rejected.  I did this four more times.  All of my submissions were rejected.

So from May 4, 2015 to June 25, 2015, I’ve been rejected six times.  Five times by Scary Mommy and one time by Blunt Moms.  I’m not even close to the number of rejections experienced by some of the authors above, but I have to admit that it’s still disheartening.

After that first rejection back in May, I just wanted to crawl into a cave and not even tell anyone that I had even tried.  I have a healthy fear of failure.  I pictured everyone smirking at me and wondering who I thought I was to even try writing.  I’m not a trained writer.  I don’t have an MFA degree.  I’m an engineer who happens to love writing.  I have a lot of nerve to think that I could do this for a living.

And then I thought about it.  In my life, rejections in the corporate world have always led to something better.  Two examples immediately popped into my mind.  I remember being crushed when I didn’t get a job at an assembly plant in 1999, only to get a better job at an assembly plant in 2002.  I remember being crushed when I didn’t get the job I wanted in Volume Planning in 2001 only to get my dream job in Product Planning in 2004.   With that in mind, I now realize that I should actually be grateful for rejection.  It’s a blessing in disguise.  Rejection helps me to stop wasting time on ill-suited endeavors and to focus on pursuing better options.

So now I’ve come around to this bizarre notion that I should actually embrace rejection.  I’ll keep on writing and submitting articles.  If I get rejected, oh well!  At least I can say that I tried.  I might even learn something that will improve my writing.  It’s a lesson that I want to teach my children, but how will they learn it if I give up so quickly?  I’d be setting a pretty lousy example if I just walk away from my dreams after a few rejections.

So, as part of my journey to become a writer, I will embrace my rejections by sharing them on my blog as part of “The Rejection Diaries.”  Someday, when I finally break through the writing barrier to entry, this blog will be a good story for my children.  The more rejections, the better the story.  It will teach them to never give up.  Keep on trying.

Post 5: Story Structure – “The Hero’s Journey Mad Libs”

I’m a terrible person to take to the movies.  Just ask my husband.  “Gravity” was on T.V. a few months ago.  Do you know this movie?  It stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  They’re astronauts.  They have a problem with their space shuttle.  They float around in space trying to figure it out.  Their lives are in danger.  Yada, yada, yada.  I suspect that there’s some tear jerking ending that I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen it.  It’s all very suspenseful.

“Gravity” received positive reviews, so my husband wanted to watch it.  Unfortunately for him, I’ve been studying story structure and I’ve discovered a new game.  It’s called “Guess How The Movie Ends Without Watching It.”  I told my husband what I thought would happen, which ruined that movie for him.  When I looked up the synopsis of the movie later, it turned out I was correct.

I know.  I’m awful.  No one will ever hang out with me at the movies again.  But seriously, we don’t have a lot of free time these days.  Who wants to waste two hours watching a movie when you know how it’s going to end?  I did the two of us a favor.

I’ll stop here to issue a warning.  If you don’t want to ruin stories/movies for yourself, stop reading here.  Anyone interested in ruining stories for friends and loved ones should keep reading.

If you think movies are formulaic, you’re right.  Most stories follow the same basic pattern.  The only change is the context.  The better the storyteller, the better the context.  Two authors who are famous for their work on story structure are Joseph Campbell (“The Hero With A Thousand Faces”) and Christopher Vogler (“The Writer’s Journey”).  Both of them discuss a commonly used storytelling formula known as “The Hero’s Journey.”  Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but most popular books and movies don’t deviate from this formula.

I found this pseudo-“Mad Libs” template for the “Hero’s Journey” on the internet.  (Source:  It does a great job of demonstrating how the formula works in two movies – Star Wars and Harry Potter.


[Insert Hero] is an orphan living with his uncle and aunt on the remote wilderness of [Insert Location].

[Hero] is rescued from [Insert 1st Antagonist] by wise, bearded [Insert 1st Ally] who turns out to be a [Insert Special Occupation].

[1st Ally] reveals to [Hero] that [Hero’s Father] was also a [Insert Special Occupation] and the best [Insert Person with Special Skill] he had ever seen.

[Hero] has many adventures in [Insert New Magical Location] and makes new friends [Insert New Allies].

In the course of these adventures, [Hero] distinguishes himself as a top [New Magical Occupation], making a direct [Insert Strike Against Enemy] that secures the [Insert Group Of Allies] victory against the forces of [Insert Evil Enemy].

[Hero] also sees off the threat of [Insert Enemy Leader], who we now know murdered his [Insert Loved Ones]. 

In the finale, [Hero] and his new friends receive [Insert Recognition]

All of this is set to an orchestral score composed by John Williams.



So here’s how this would work with Star Wars:

LUKE SKYWALKER is an orphan living with his uncle and aunt on the remote wilderness of TATOOINE. 

LUKE is rescued from ALIENS by wise bearded BEN KENOBI who turns out to be a JEDI KNIGHT.

BEN KENOBI reveals to LUKE that LUKE’S FATHER was also a JEDI KNIGHT and the best PILOT he had ever seen.

LUKE SKYWALKER has many adventures in THE GALAXY and makes new friends HAN SOLO AND PRINCESS LEIA.

In the course of these adventures, LUKE distinguishes himself as a top X-WING PILOT, making a direct HIT that secures the REBEL victory against the forces of THE EVIL EMPIRE.

LUKE SKYWALKER also defeats the threat of LORD VADER, who we now know murdered his UNCLE AND AUNT. 

In the finale, LUKE and his new friends receive MEDALS OF VALOR

All of this is set to score composed by John Williams.



Hey!  That was fun!  Let’s try this with Harry Potter:

HARRY POTTER is an orphan living with his uncle and aunt on the remote wilderness of SUBURBIA.

HARRY is rescued from MUGGLES by wise bearded HAGRID who turns out to be a WIZARD.

HAGRID reveals to HARRY that HARRY’S FATHER was also a WIZARD and the best QUIDDITCH PLAYER he had ever seen.

HARRY POTTER has many adventures in HOGWARTS and makes new friends RON AND HERMIONE.

In the course of these adventures, HARRY POTTER distinguishes himself as a top QUIDDITCH SEEKER, making a direct CATCH that secures the GRYFFINDOR victory against the forces of SLYTHERIN.

HARRY POTTER also sees off the threat of LORD VOLDEMORT, who we now know murdered his PARENTS.    

In the finale, HARRY POTTER and his new friends receive THE HOUSE CUP.

All of this is set to score composed by John Williams.

Wasn’t that fun?  This kind of feels like telling the truth about Santa Claus, but I think it’s an awesome template.  What a great way to summarize the plot of a new novel!

All kidding aside, I admit that I’m curious to see if this template works in practical application, so I’m going to use it as a starting point for my next manuscript.  Now all I need is a four-syllable name for a protagonist and I’m ready to go.