Crossing the Threshold: Embracing Your Hero’s Journey

The hero, or heroine, of the story is key to its success. The quest or journey they are on propels the plot forward, taking the reader with them through a romance, marriage breakup, leaving home or another adventure or challenge. If the hero comes home (even figuratively) after this adventure, it’s likely they will be forever changed.

However, the moment they actually commit to that quest is called crossing the threshold. It’s an incredibly important moment. Not only does it propel the story forward, but it usually marks the hero’s entry into the unknown. They have left behind the familiar world they are used to, and are now ready to confront the challenges that lie ahead. Doesn’t it make you tingle?

In terms of a plot point, it is often related to the inciting incident in the story arc. It is at that point where the world of the story, or the life of the hero, changes forever. They might have to cross a threshold because they’ve met a monstrous figure or idea that represents the fears they need to overcome to step into the unknown. Or it might actually be about walking out their front door away from a bad relationship, leaving their childhood home for the first time, or departing a city for a new job. Whatever that act is, they cross a threshold and enter that new existence.

RELATED READ: Literary Techniques: 10 Common Literary Devices You Should Know

Examples to illustrate the concept

There are lots of examples of this concept in film, literature, pop culture and all kinds of storytelling. Let’s take a look at a few.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)

Tolkien uses the concept of crossing the threshold to excellent effect in all his stories. When both Frodo and Bilbo embark on their varying quests (to destroy the ring and slay a dragon), and symbolically leaving the shire and home, they cross this symbolic threshold and prepare for the new, dangerous, and special world they find themselves in. Even Sam says in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring), “If I take one more step, this will be the furthest from home I’ve ever been.” Readers resonate with moments like this.

The Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum and 1939 MGM film)

When Dorothy is picked up by a tornado in Kansas and transported to a new world, the Land of the Munchkins, this is an example of crossing one threshold. But a second would be when she begins her quest on the yellow brick road to find the Wizard of Oz.

Different thresholds in our lives

There are different thresholds we face in our lives, and our heros can face in our stories. Let’s take a look at some of these.

Physical journeys: This refers to the active part of the journey which can involve physical steps such as stepping onto a plane, entering a new city, driving off in a car, walking out the door and leaving home.

Metaphorical transitions: Not all thresholds are just physical, and the emotional or psychological journey is just as important. Metaphorical thresholds could include starting a new job, ending a relationship, or facing a fear.

Internal transformations: The internal transformations a character goes through when they cross a threshold often form a significant part of their character arc. This includes things like shifting perspectives, a change in their approach to a relationship or scenario, or making difficult choices.

RELATED READ: Logical Fallacies: Definition and Examples

How to write the crossing of the threshold

Here are some tips for how you can work this concept into your plot effectively and the various steps the hero faces once they cross the threshold.

Facing the Guardian: The threshold guardian is basically an obstacle our hero needs to overcome. It is person or thing that prevents our hero from entering the new world. The guardian represents the character’s internal demons and the various scars and vices that person has that is holding them back. That point of resistance, or the threshold, is what the character must face and crossover. Like a test, it determines if they are ready to meet the challenge. This guardian doesn’t need to remain an enemy though.

Entering the Unknown: Once the hero has faced their guardian and made their first steps over the threshold, they enter the unknown. The world, existence, understanding, or people they lived their life with have been left behind and they are forging ahead where everything is new. This can be a scary or exhilarating time for the character.

The Transformation: The next part of the transition phase for our hero once they have crossed the threshold and entered the unknown, is a period of transformation. How are they going to face their trials and challenges, deal with the enemies that hold them back, and overcome the obstacles in their way? All of these experiences will contribute to their personal growth and change them forever.

Beyond the Threshold: At some point in the story, our hero will face a crisis. This is their greatest trial and adversity, and when they have faced it and undergone their transformation, they will begin their journey back. Somehow, they must face the ordinary world again with whatever wisdom or revelations they’ve experienced and contribute again to the world around them. That road back can be a journey in itself. For example, Frodo struggled with his return to normal life in The Lord of the Rings, while Sam prospered.

However you decide to embrace your hero’s journey, just remember that it can be a powerful metaphor for readers facing their own challenges and opportunities for growth and change. They find inspiration and strength in the lives of fictional heroes and anything you can write that mirrors some of those same challenges will sing to them from the page.

Frequently Asked Questions

First Editing is equipped to edit ANY type of document you can write! Over the past 10 years, we’ve perfected tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, ebooks, theses, dissertations, essays, letters, websites, articles, scripts, business proposals, poetry, and more! Let us transform your draft into a perfectly edited masterpiece! Click HERE for a FREE sample edit and price quote…
Projects less than 50 pages are completed in just 2-3 business days. Longer documents (manuscripts, dissertations, etc.) require 7-10 business days depending on their length. If you order multiple documents totaling 50+ pages, they can all still be completed in the standard 3 day timeframe since each document may be assigned to a different editing team simultaneously. Additionally, 1-2 day rush services are also available. See our order form for more details.
Professional editors of successfully published books, journals, articles, and more are working around the clock to ensure your editing is letter-perfect and delivered according to your deadline. Each editor has a minimum of TEN years worth of professional writing & editing experience. Show us some of YOUR writing and we’ll send YOU a FREE editing sample!
First Editing is one of the very few online editing services that GUARANTEES client satisfaction! If there is ANYTHING about our work with which you are not 100% satisfied, we will correct it at no additional charge. First Editing is also the ONLY service of its kind to GUARANTEE on-time completion. We NEVER miss a deadline…EVER!! Read more about our Editing Satisfaction Guarantee.
Our basic rates vary from just 1 U.S. cent per word to just over 3 U.S. cents per word. Most basic copy editing that does not require rush delivery costs between $0.0097 and $0.013 USD per word (approximately one cent per word). Larger orders often cost even less. Factors influencing your total price are document type, length of manuscript, turnaround time required, & level of editing required. For a free, no-obligation price quote, CLICK HERE.

Share With :

Get a free editing sample outlining areas you need to fix before publishing. Discover what works!

Add Your Heading Text Here

Add Your Heading Text Here