About the author.
My name is Ashraf Ramzy, Narratologist, Business Story Consultant, Coach, Author, Speaker, Founder and CEO of MasterStory®. Some 30 years ago I attained a master’s degree in Narratology, the science and study of Story. Since then I have been quietly putting the power of Story to work for visionary brands, organizations and leaders. And, with great success. During those 30 years, a systematic and effective methodology emerged. One that ensured the successful development of a business narrative with impact. Be it a campaign story, a customer story, a target audience story, a brand story, an organizational story, a corporate story or a masterstory. Building further on that methodology I developed StoryMeter®, a diagnostic tool that measures the power of story and its impact on business. In addition I have developed the StoryMaster® program, a 3 day workshop to equip and license you to use the MasterStory® methodology and diagnostic tool. In the weeks, months and years ahead I will post (infrequent) updates on my work, my methodology and my own journey. So make sure to check this page every once in a while. Or subscribe to our newsletter.
Does your Story work? Part 5: Who is “The Hero”
This is episode 5 in the technical series “Does your Story work?”. It is intended for professionals who are interested in story and want the know-how and tools to lead a storytelling project: to inspire story development, evaluate story concepts, direct story execution, and objectively measure and monitor the impact of story.
Now, that we are about the meet the Hero, we have reached the apotheosis of our journey of discovery. We started this series with the notion that there are laws and principles that govern story, that these laws have been studied and taught at least since Aristotle wrote both Poetics and Rhetoric, some 2500 years ago. We continued with the hard distinction between “the Story” and “the Telling”. We then examined the two drivers of Story: “Character” and “Plot”. First, we looked at the function of these drivers and saw how they generate Audience Engagement. Then, digging deeper into the dynamics of “Character” and “Plot”, we saw how they form and shape story. “Character” juxtaposes roles and relationships. Plot determines the course and result of actions.
In this episode we will take a closer look at the central figure of Story: The Hero. We will describe that role. And begin to understand what makes a Hero.
Who is the Hero?
Every story is someone’s story. And that someone is the Hero. All the other elements converge into the Hero and emanate from the Hero. The Hero is the essence and engine of story. His actions drive the story. His choices transform situations, alter circumstances and change the world. His decisions direct events and shape their outcome. He is the core around which the entire story revolves. And he is at the center of every single movement within the Story. The Hero is the alpha of story, being the reason the story begins. And he is the omega of story, making sure that the story ends, and ends well.
The Hero is not limited to fiction or fantasy. He exists in the real world too. Neither is the Hero a historical figure. He also exists in real time. The Hero is not limited to any form or shape, any age or generation, any gender or color or race. The Hero can be any one. And anyone can be a Hero. The Hero is not limited to any particular culture or any specific era. The Hero belongs to mankind throughout time. Neither is the Hero confined to any location or place. The Hero exists beyond the boundaries of time and space, entering when needed, exiting when done.
The Hero is ubiquitous and omnipresent. Yet we know surprisingly little about him.
Maybe we know something about the “Hero’s Journey”. How, according to Joseph Campbell: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man”. But, inspiring as the Hero’s Journey may be, it is hard to ignore how Campbell in his romantic quest for unity within humanity, overlooked significant and structural contradictions between mythologies as the belief and value systems that govern a culture’s identity, mentality and way of life. We’ll come back to that later, in another series. In the meantime, for now, suffice it to say that understanding someone’s journey is not necessarily the same as understanding someone’s character.
And, maybe we know something about “archetypes”; the enduring and universal patterns hard wired in the mind, living in the collective unconscious, forming the appearance of a.o. the Hero. Some say there are 64 archetypes. Other say there are 32 or even 16. And some authors say there are 4 fundamental archetypes: King, Warrior, Lover, and Magician. I quite like these four. Simple. Easy to remember. Especially if you’re a fan of the A Team: Hannibal would be the King, the leader, who loves it when a plan comes together. BA Barachus would be the Warrior, who protects and defends and fights for what is precious and vulnerable; Face then is the Lover who connects and communicates and persuades. Murdoch, crazy as he may seem sometimes, is the Magician, who, quite literally transports them. And together, as a Team, they are the Hero.
However, how helpful, even illuminating, it may be to understand someone’s archetype, it is also not necessarily the same as understanding someone’s character.
Who is the Hero not?
Well, for certain, the Hero is not the Villain. Not that the Hero cannot do bad or wrong things. Or vice versa, not that the Villain cannot do good and right things. We’re discerning between the doer and the deed here. And quite simply, the Hero represents Good, while the Villain represents Evil. If only for this reason, no story, I repeat, no story is value free or objective.
Also the Hero is not the Victim. Not that the Hero can’t feel pain or doesn’t suffer. Quite the contrary, if there is anything characteristic about the Hero is that without pain and suffering he wouldn’t be a Hero. And vice versa, not that the Victim can’t be happy or feel joy. As a matter of fact, if the Hero accomplishes anything, it is that the Victim becomes the Beneficiary. Again we discern between the doer and the deed. Where the Victim represents the recipient of Evil and the Beneficiary the recipient of Good.
So, who is the Hero? Can we capture his essence, convey his character, define him, and describe who he is? Yes, we can.
In the next episode, after the summer break, in September, we’ll continue our journey of discovery and learn about the 8 traits that make up the Heroic Profile.