Continuing from the previous post on Act I of the Hero’s Journey, the second act begins. Here, the Hero has accepted the Call to adventure. They officially meet the Mentor, who guides and trains the Hero through the rest of the journey. Then comes the Threshold, or the point of no return. Tests, allies, and enemies arise to test the Hero and their resolve. Note, this article is written from a hero-as-protagonist perspective. Some stories have the Hero as an antagonist or an anti-hero/split-protagonist.
With the premise established, readers know what to expect as the Hero wades through Act II. Further worldbuilding occurs to deepen the immersion and finish painting a unique, vibrant universe.
Meeting the Mentor
A mentor is more skilled and experienced than the Hero. Mentors have that distinctive elderly air about them that commands respect and awe. The mentor’s job is to pass down knowledge and move the protagonist through the plot. To give the Hero a kick in the rear. If the plot stalls, it’s the Mentor’s job to restart it. Eventually, Heroes themselves do this. The Mentor then dies off or vanishes, as the plot no longer calls for them.
Examples of Mentors:
- Obi-wan from Star Wars
- Gandalf from LoTR
- Moirane from The Wheel of Time
- Brom from Eragon
- Kelsier from Mistborn
Heroes begin their training under the Mentor in earnest. This leads to the Threshold. Crossing this Threshold is the first of many tests Heroes face. It officially begins the adventure and seals the Hero’s fate. After the Threshold ordeal, there is no going back. The Hero changes, internally and/or externally, to emphasis this.
Most stories signify Crossing the Threshold with an aesthetic change. The Hero dons a set of armor, a uniform, or appearances are altered. It is the christening of the Hero—a rebirth into something different.
Tests, Allies, & Enemies
Following the Threshold, the Hero meets a variety of new stimuli. These come in the form of allies, opponents, and more tests. These elements sharpen the Hero’s growth, provide support and challenge, and deepen the plot. During all this, the Hero experiences a spurt of growth from all the stimulus. It’s important to show this internally as well as externally.
As the Hero grows, so do the number of trials they face. More Thresholds appear, pushing the Hero to their limits. These battles reflect the inner struggles the Hero still deals with. Many come in the form of brawls, ambushes, confrontation with authorities, political intrigue, or romance issues. Deaths of side characters can also suffice.
Along with more trials come allies. Companions support the Hero, strengthen the plot, add worldbuilding, and provide details like comic relief to balance tension. Allies round out a story and fill in any missing gaps.
The Enemy, namely the chief antagonist, grows involved in the Hero’s quest. The Enemy may confront the protagonist, and challenge or intimidate them. The antagonist is a powerful force that the protagonist cannot yet deal with. This should frighten or challenge the Hero’s resolve yet again.
Minions may try to stop or stall the Hero, thereby fulfilling the need for more trials—and hence, character growth.
Act II builds off the first act, and helps fulfill the promises made to readers. Bringing in mentors, allies, enemies, and trials provide opportunities for character growth. As we turn to Act III, the quest reaches its zenith, and the training earned by the Hero in Act II comes to fruition.
2 thoughts on “Act II of the Hero’s Journey”
This is definitely s good look into the “Skeleton” of storytelling (as was the first part) and one thing that makes me wonder, given the fourt-act structure, that trilogies are the most-frequent format. Have you though how these acts (and their parts) act to make a good or bad place to end one book and start the next one? By my memory, it seems many series have the first two acts in one book.
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Epic fantasy will often weave multiple Journeys into a series. You can nest mini-Journeys within larger ones too! From my knowledge, it’s best to finish a Journey cycle by book’s end if possible—or set up the reader well for book two with promises to fulfill that Journey later. Almost like a carrot on a stick idea.