There are many ways to do a sequel, though for this question I'm only interested in one...

The Post Hero's Journey/Apotheosis-Story.

Lacking a proper name for this narrative frame work "PHJ" is what I've taken to calling it; there may very well be a proper name for it, but I certainly don't know it.

I noticed a shared struckture by a number of sequels, sequels that each spring off [a completed Hero's Journey][1].

  • The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolution.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2.
  • Iron Man 2&3.
  • Capitan America 2&3
  • The second half of the anime series Tegena Topa Gurren Lagan.
  • The last two books in the Mistborn series.
  • Halo 4.

While similar to the Hero's Journey, the"PHJ" has a different emotional energy. If the Hero's Journey is about Birth(starting with the Inciting Incident) and growth to adulthood. Then the "PHJ" is about adult life and eventual death; the death may be figurative.

Has anyone seen a...

  • Write up of a continuation to the Hero's Journey.
  • List of the plot points,story-beats, that are considered essential to a sequel.
  • Write up of the plot points in any of the media that I've listed as examples of the "PHJ".
  • this is a great question! Do you see any similarities in the structure of Iron Man 2, Captain America 2, and Kung Fu Panda 2? Jan 21, 2017 at 16:36
  • 2
    I do it's why they're on my list. They start with the Hero in their element and a portend of doom. They end with the hero undergoing a symbolic enlightenment and or death/apotheosis. While the Hero's Journey have similar steps, the emotional energy in the Post-Hero's Journey is different. Jan 22, 2017 at 3:12
  • While @MarkBaker makes some very compelling points and is probably "right", I feel you may be on to something, but maybe you're just not labeling/categorizing it correctly. A story which starts after a significant Hero's Journey has been completed is often a different animal even though it may end up being another heroic arc. The whole dynamic is different than someone starting from scratch with no experience under their belt. And, if the prior story has been told, the readers may be starting from that understanding as well.
    – Joe
    Jan 25, 2017 at 6:57
  • @Joe Labeling is a problem. I've caught sight of a pattern and have no idea what to call it; the Post Hero's Journey is what I've started calling it. And like you said while it is similar to the Hero's Journey, the emotional energy/resonance is different. What I need is a either a write up of the plot point used in sequels and or a comparison of the major plot points shared between sequels. Jan 25, 2017 at 22:21
  • If you want to make this case this way, I think you need to lay out the two patterns as you see them. I think what you are seeing is simply the hero's next journey. You are asking us what to call a distinction that you yourself have made up. (Admittedly, I'm not sure how you would turn the exposition of your theory into a valid question here.)
    – user16226
    Jan 28, 2017 at 14:36

3 Answers 3


I would challenge your assertion that the journey is a metaphor for maturation. In today's highly (one might almost say pathologically) individualistic society we do tend to think that the story is all about me: the hero is heroic for the hero's own sake. But the classic hero's journey is not about the hero acting for the hero's sake, but the hero acting for the sake of the community.

The hero leaves the community (in some cases is exiled from the community) and faces various ordeals to win a boon for the sake of the community, after which they are welcomed back into the community (or, in the tragic version, cannot return).

This is then a complete arc. The hero is reintegrated into the community and the community itself is safe. And they all lived happily ever after.

Or at least until there is another threat and the hero is called upon once again.

And in fact the super-hero movies all follow this formula. X-Men, Ghostbusters, Spiderman, all begin with exile and end with acceptance and reintegration.

This is not a maturation plot. It is an exile and return plot. The maturation plot may be a subtype, in the sense that the immature are, to one extent or another, exiled, and must demonstrate maturity to be welcomed back. The teenage years are years of exile. But there is no post-return plot, other than to be exiled again, which is then a repetition of the hero's journey.

As a tribal species, exile is our greatest threat and our greatest fear, loneliness our greatest agony. To be unwelcome around the fire is to be cast out into the wilderness, to the cold, the dark, and the wolves. Those who are cast out, and those who voluntarily leave for the sake of the tribe, share a common consummation: the return.

  • I'd argue that it is a maturation, with entire series of trails a metaphor for the development into a proper adult;to be really specific the it's about the growth from boy to man. John Truby screenwriter, director and screenwriting teacher, shares that sentiment, in fact he is the that I got the idea from. Jan 22, 2017 at 3:17
  • But it seems that you yourself have identified the problem with that view, namely that if it is true, an adult cannot have a hero's journey. And that just does not seem supportable. It also suggests, which is even more unsupportable, that we don't want adults to undertake heroic roles for the sake of the community, which very clearly we do. An obsession with growing up is one of the marks of childhood. So many people today seem stuck in perpetual adolescence that there is no doubt an substantial market for maturation stories. But classically maturation is only one of the standard plots.
    – user16226
    Jan 22, 2017 at 3:37
  • Maturation is figurative rather than literal excluding coming of age stories, in those cases they are literal. The many stories especially the Hero's Journey is about a hero becoming rather than a hero doing. In fact people to tend to complain about a character that simply does. Jan 22, 2017 at 19:34
  • So you are redefining maturation as all change, not as the exit from childhood. But if all change is maturation and all stories require change and if maturation = hero's journey then by definition there are no post-hero's journey stories. The way you have defined your terms makes it impossible for there to be the term you are asking for within the confines for the classification schema you are using.
    – user16226
    Jan 22, 2017 at 21:43
  • Not all change the progression from a state of weakness/immaturity to a state of strength and maturity. The story is about that change, which is why the story ends when the hero is able to kick ass and take names. Jan 24, 2017 at 19:35

Let me approach this another way. The idea of a maturation plot occurs in more than one of the various schemas for classifying plots by type. Those schemas divide plots into multiple types, but there are different numbers of types in each.

Heros's journey, on the other hand is not part of a classification schema for plots, it is proposed as the archetype of all plots. If we accept this as true, then all of the plot types in the various plot classification schemas, including the maturation plot, are all hero's journey.

So, if someone proposes that all hero's journey plots are maturation plots, they are saying one of two things:

  1. All plots are maturation plots, since the hero's journey is a maturation plot and is the archetype of all plots. Therefore there are no other types of plot other than maturation, and therefore the answer to your question is no.

  2. There are various types of plots, maturation is one of them, and the hero's journey is a maturation plot, therefore the hero's journey is not the archtype of all plots but just another name for the maturation plot. In that case, the answer to your question is to choose one of the plot typing schemas that includes the maturation plot and pick from all the other types it offers.

There is, of course, a third alternative, which is that John Truby is wrong and the hero's journey is the archetype of all plots and the maturation plot is only one type of hero's journey. One test for this would be to decide if the instances of post-hero's-journey plots that you cite actually fit the hero's journey archetype or not.

I am not familiar with all of them, but Iron Man 2 certainly seems to fit the hero's journey, though perhaps with an incomplete arc. It begins with Stark the hero of the community but facing the ultimate exile of death because the suit is poisoning him. Then comes the call to adventure when he is attacked by Vanco. The wise man appears in the form of Fury. Stark receives a gift that makes his quest possible--his father's reactor plans. He undergoes an ordeal and saves the community. But the arc in incomplete in the sense that he is left exiled from Shield. This is to set up the following films, of course. But it is absolutely classic hero's journey stuff. So, not post hero's journey at all.

Part of the issue here may also be what we mean by maturation. In a classical tribal society, maturity had a clear definition. You were mature when you were ready to take on adult responsibilities within the community. But in a society so individualistic that few people regard themselves as having any responsibility at all to the community, the definition of mature is hard to define, and we do see many adults living what are essentially extended childhoods. In such a society, it would be easy enough to define all personal development as maturation.

And if you do that, then all plots do indeed become maturation plots (unless you ascribe the McKee's assertion that people don't change and that a story reveals character rather then changing it). But if that is the case, you are not redefining the hero's journey or any of the common plot classification schemas, you are simply redefining maturation. And if that is what you are doing, then the answer to your question is again no, since there are no plots that are not maturation plots. (This is clearly not what you are saying, but it is part of trying to account for the view that you ascribe to John Truby.)

  • Here's where I'm coming from. Why do stories end write when the hero is finally strong enough to deal with their "crises"? Because the story wasn't about the battle at the end, no it was about the time the experiences that made an out of their depths figurative or literal child and their journey to be able to fight the last battle which is the pay off/climax for journey. Jan 22, 2017 at 19:48
  • An alternate view (one espoused by Robert McKee) is that the hero does not change or develop new capability, but rather the issue in a story is how much are they willing to give up to achieve their desire. What are they willing to do? How much are they willing to bleed. This is not the development of capacity, but the discovery of the limits of ones existing capacity.
    – user16226
    Jan 22, 2017 at 21:48
  • Either way, I see no analytical value of extending the idea of a maturation plot beyond coming of age. Either stories are about change, or stories are about discovering ones limits and that is one issue. But the transition from childhood to adulthood is one of the most profound and important in any person's life, and the coming of age story is therefore a key element of literature. What analytical insight is gained by reassigning "maturation" from "coming of age" to "any change"? Is there a new insight here or are we just shuffling terms about among the same old concepts?
    – user16226
    Jan 22, 2017 at 21:53
  • The extension of the maturation plot, is the journey from adult to elder and then finally death. The Journey from Hero to Godhood through achieving apotheosis. What noticed In the stories that I listed was a pattern similar to the Hero's Journey, but the emotional weighting at each of the steps was different. I know that this second journey starts with a portend of doom and ends with Hero undergoing apotheosis/death. Jan 24, 2017 at 21:23

Okay... there are a few things that need to be said about the Hero's Journey.

First, it is not a writing tool, it is an analysis tool, hence its inherent ambiguity. If you're trying to write a HJ story, you're doing it wrong. You're really thinking about the Writer's Journey or the Hollywood Formula. HJ is not paint by numbers, contrary to popular belief.

Second, there is no Post HJ story. There is merely one HJ followed by another. The Call is a problem that needs solving. The Elixer and the Master of Both Worlds is the solution and its application. If a story ends on Apotheosis, it is either incomplete or is really a Return. Both the solution and its application can outlive the one who discovers it. And failure is always an option.

Third, Gurren Lagann is a Reconstruction of a Deconstruction of a time honored story structure common to Japanese Anime. The Gaint Robot Story popularized by Gundam, parodied by Macross, and Deconstructed by Evangelion. In all its forms, it is classic HJ, including the Master bit where the hero leaves his power behind to return to a normal life; or become his true self, ala OO.

Fourth, the HJ takes different forms depending on one's social setting and age. The fact that death is more probable as one gets older doesn't mean there's any more inherent Apotheosis, or that the story can end prematurely without being poorly written. The fact that most HJ stories deal with maturity speaks more of its typical Target Audience rather than its intent or structure. The fact that the "Post" HJ story appears when ending a series speaks more of the intent of the author than the intent of the tool, and is often yet another case of Raising the Stakes.

  • I know that what I've calling a Post Hero's Journey is just a slightly different form of the Hero's Journey. Those slight differences are where my interest lie, in addition their is narrative structure shared by a number of sequels that I want a write up for. Lacking a better term I've taken to calling this sequel narrative the" Post Hero's Journey". Jan 30, 2017 at 21:25
  • It's not different, which is my point. The PHJ story is really just an HJ story where the Stakes have been Raised. Sequels, by their nature must outlive their original purpose, resulting in a story that must struggle with its right to exist / the meaning of that continued existence (what you see as Apotheosis), as well as delivering a conflict that exceeds the current ability level of the protagonist (often resulting in Power Creep). It isn't the Sequels that are different but the Originals - they're incomplete without the content you think is reserved for Sequels. Jan 30, 2017 at 22:17
  • The emotional weighting at each of the steps in a PHJ is different. And the pattern that I'm looking at might not even use all the steps as its predecessor. What I need is, a layout of the plot points and common elements of sequels. Failing that... A write up of the plot points,themes and character for at least two(ideally all) of the media that I've listed as examples of a post Hero's Journey. Jan 31, 2017 at 21:02
  • The emotional weight of every HJ is different; if it is the Monomyth, it is by its own definition potentially any / every emotional weight. Also, the order and inclusion of events is not inherently fixed, especially during The Road of Trials, which makes up all of Act 2 in the Hollywood Formula. HJ accounts for its own differences, which is what makes it a Monomyth. Feb 4, 2017 at 21:10
  • As long you refuse to see that an HJ contains the PHJ, and choose to see the Monomyth as not a Monomyth, you will always be looking away from the answer, and no one will answer this question the way you want them to, because the correct answer is that your premise, the question itself, is wrong. You'd be better off switching to the Hollywood Formula or the Beat Sheet, which allows for enough disagreement and variety for you hold onto your premise and get the answer you're looking for. Feb 4, 2017 at 21:17

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