Quick recap: The Hero's Journey was originally written about by Joseph Campbell in a book called The Hero with 1000 Faces. It is a study of thousands of fairy tales, legends, myths, stories etc from around the world that feature a similar pattern - a young man of unknown/uncertain parentage discovers his true self and saves the world, often with the help of an older mentor, often with the help of a magic sword. Most cultures have such a tale eg King Arthur. Christopher Vogler wrote another book called The Hero's Journey for Writers, which showed how you could reduce it down to a 3 Act, 17 step structure which provided a blueprint for writing a novel or film script. Chuck in a whole load of Jungian-based analysis of characters such as the Mentor, the Shapeshifter, the Mirror etc and that's the Hero's Journey. It came to prominence when George Lucas used it as a basis for writing Star Wars, and many scriptwriters have used it as a format subsequently.
That's obviously a very short version - here's the link to Wikipedia if you want to know more or you can Google the Hero's Journey and you'll get lots of information and analysis. You can apply the Hero's Journey to many stories, from Cinderella to The Wizard of Oz and beyond and jolly good fun it is too. Many a happy hour can be spent developing your story according to the Hero's Journey.
And that's why I don't like it, or rather, I don't think it's a useful tool for writers. It's another great way of procrastinating instead of getting on and actually writing your book. Secondly, it implies that there's a format for writing, and while I would agree that working to a basic 3 Act structure is a good idea, I don't think that there is a universal format that any old writer can use. Thirdly, it's restrictive - not every story follows the Jungian archetypes, not every story is a quest.
I have a sneaky suspicion that the reason it gets taught in a lot of creative writing courses is that it's a great one for creative writing tutors to teach. You could spend a whole term on it without having to think of any new stuff that might be really useful to a student writer. Even better, you can teach it as an academic subject, in just the same way English is taught by academics who analyse books, rather than by writers themselves.
I first came across it on my MA in Creative Writing where it was being taught by an academic. Everyone was very excited because here seemed the answer to one's prayers - a surefire structure that you just had to fill in the gaps, join up the dots, and bingo! a lovely shiny new novel or film script would emerge. Except it doesn't. What you get is lots of writing ABOUT your novel, and not much writing OF your novel.
So - are there any writers out there who use the Hero's Journey as a starting point? Or even as a finishing check-list? Is it really a useful tool for writers who want to write? Or is it, in Hero's Journey speak, just another temptation on the Road Of Trials for those of us who want to write a novel?