I recently listened to a podcast where an author claimed that if a writer did not use the hero’s journey template, they will never be a successful author. This is ridiculous and I totally disagree.
When writing fiction, a writer can either follow an established story template or not. By a template, I mean the basic structure of the story is already outlined by the industry. The writer just needs to fill in the details.
There are other templates, such as for romance stories. With the hero’s journey template, it can be found in genres such as thrillers, suspense, science fiction, and others. In it, the protagonist (hero) is called to adventure and refuses the call until someone tells them to stop whining and go. The hero goes on the adventure, is challenged by people and obstacles, confronts an ordeal, wins the reward, and confronts a final challenge before arriving home.
It is true that in some genres a writer must follow a template like this because the reader expects it. The category defines the story line. And that is okay. Sometimes a reader just wants sameness like a warm blanket on a cold night. I like these stories, too. Sometimes. However, many authors do not follow these templates and have popular, successful books that sell.
My favorite books did not follow a template like the hero’s journey. These novels went free-form without definition. The writer expanded their story to what it should be and not confined by barriers in a template.
Following a template makes for faster and easier writing. Just fill in the blanks and readers will come. But in the end is the writer satisfied with what they wrote or did they wish they had more freedom in their story?