I'm mulling over a story that doesn't follow the standard story template of:

  • Hero (or anti-hero)
  • Hero has problem (or is problem)
  • Hero fights problem
  • Hero succeeds (or problem succeeds and all the permutations and varieties of hero and problem.)
  • Hero is transformed. (Or not. Or eaten.)

Are there any stories that successfully break this template? What I'm looking for is not variants on the Hero's Journey where the parts are different or ironic but where the template itself is not used or referenced. The only thing that comes to mind are the existential novels of Camus or Sarte but those are rather depressing.

  • Ever read Chekhov? He never follows that story line.
    – natsirun
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 18:53
  • 2
    Sure, lots, including many many classics. Consider Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," or Poe's tales of melancholy and horror. Many genres will have no resemblance to your template at all, e.g. tragedies, anthropological SF, and slice-of-life vignettes. This is far to narrow a template to bind everything into.
    – Standback
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 20:44

2 Answers 2



  • Hero
  • Hero has problem
  • Hero fights problem
  • Problem fights back
  • Hero fails


  • Hero
  • Hero thinks he has problem
  • Hero fights problem
  • Hero succeeds
  • Problem escalates
  • Hero is transformed and recognized he was the problem in the first place.

Story of the road

  • Hero
  • Hero has a string of problems
  • Hero is transformed with each of them
  • The sum of transformations leads to victory, for better or worse (downfall/corruption?)

Conflict of many greys

  • Multiple Heroes
  • Heroes are each other's problems
  • They fight and form alliances
  • Some win, some lose.
  • It transforms them.


  • Hero
  • Hero has problem
  • Hero blunders blindly to discover the source of the problem.
  • Upon discovering the final clue the source of the problem is breathing on the hero's back.

Unwilling hero

  • Someone has a problem. Not the hero.
  • They force the hero to deal with the problem
  • Hero has two problems
  • the hero has now the alternative, submit and deal with original problem or fight back.

Fool's travel

  • Hero has problem
  • Hero fights problem.
  • Hero loses, but problem becomes moot through external means.
  • Hero is none the wiser believing to be victorious.

Story with a twist

  • Hero
  • Hero has problem
  • Hero fights problem
  • Hero succeeds.
  • Hero discovers there were seven other problems along the way and they all got resolved through his course of action and behind-the-scenes influences. They were hinted all along the way but only now are revealed fully.

Also, have a look at my old question: Resources for generic hooks The answers detail pretty much what you seek, in many more variants.

  • 1
    [Chatty abuse of comment system] Hero has a problem. Hero decides to use regular expressions. Hero now has two problems.
    – user5232
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 0:57

That particular structure is called the "Hero's Journey," and yes, there are many stories which aren't.

  • 1984, Animal Farm, Death of a Salesman, Brokeback Mountain — look for stories with sad endings, because that often means the hero didn't succeed in overcoming the problem, and wasn't transformed.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch is literally a day in the life of a prisoner in a gulag, so there isn't any kind of journey there.
  • I realize it's an episode of a TV show and not a novel, but Star Trek: Voyager had a two-parter called "Year of Hell." Alternate timelines were heavily featured. At the end of part two, the Reset Button is hit, and all the alternate timelines are wiped out. The antagonist decides not to start the temporal mucking about, which might sort of qualify as "transformed," but no one remembers the events of the episodes, so no problem is overcome.

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