Hero’s Journey Dances with Wolves (1990)

Dances with Wolves is another successful story that follows the Hero’s Journey template almost by the book. Mirroring the Hero’s Journey template allows the screenwriter to write effective screenplays and stories.

1. Hero’s strength of character; nature [John Dunbar pulls his boots over his soon to be amputated leg].

2. Introduce a Supernatural Aid / Mentor [the General on the hill top].

3. Hero commits an extraordinary act [suicide sequence; John’s fellow soldier initiates the Call to Adventure] the soldier’s reactions provide the Refusal].

4. Mentor recognizes the Hero as such and offers magical gifts (John Dunbar’s desire to see the frontier before it’s gone; Cisco the faithful horse and promotion].

5. Hero begins his journey [trip to Fort Hayes with Cisco].

6. Meeting the Threshold Guardian [the officer who commits suicide]. Warnings of danger [can drive you insane – like the officer].

7. Journey to the First Threshold with the (dangerous) Joker.

8. Danger of the journey developed; references to an antagonism [John finds skeletons along the way; killed by Indian arrows].

9. Character and natures of the Hero and Joker developed [camping sequence].

10. The magical nature of the First Threshold (this New World we are entering) illustrated [we see the majesty of the prairies].

11. Foreshadow of the adventure [“Indians are nothing but thieves and beggars”].

12. Hero arrives at the First Threshold. It is foreboding, dangerous and unwelcoming. But the Hero sees value there. There is resistance to entering [the Joker won’t stay; John Dunbar has to pull a gun on him].

13. There is no way back [the Joker departs].

14. The Hero feels strangely comfortable with the decision he has made.

15. Hero is wary of danger in the First Threshold [John is edgy – he pulls a gun on Cisco].

16. Danger illustrated [John finds a dead dear].

17. Hero overcomes initial doubts and fears [gives the dead deer a funeral; he literarily burns them].

18. Hero aware of an antagonism [John Dunbar realizes that the smoke may attract the Indians].

19. We are introduced to an Antagonism [the Pawnee].

20. The danger of the Antagonism illustrated [the Pawnee kill the Joker].

21. Hero enters deeper into the First Threshold and meets an ally [John begins to get comfortable and meets Two Socks].

22. Hero in the Belly of the First Threshold and becomes familiar with his ally [John completely at home and the relationships with Two Socks is developed].

23. Hero meets a new Mentor. The hero does not recognize the Mentor but the Mentor is aware of him on some level [Kicking Bird runs away – he knows white people inhabit this place and are coming in increasing numbers].

The 106 stage Hero’s Journey and complete analysis of Dances with Wolves and other story structure templates can be found at http://www.managing-creativity.com/

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Kal Bishop, MBA


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Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached at http://www.managing-creativity.com

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