Good grief

In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book called On Death and Dying. In it she details the five stages of grief (aka the Kübler-Ross model), a series of emotional changes one experiences when faced with certain death: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. 

I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between this progression and typical storytelling techniques.

Below is an illustration of the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell’s popular method. In the outer circle, I’ve laid the five stages of grief.



It’s no stretch to match Denial with Refusal of the Call. Save the Cat calls this section Debate. Of course Luke Skywalker doesn’t want to go to Alderaan. Who would? That place sucks.


Not every second act starts with anger but I stand by my match here. Often conflicting parties are forced to together at this point in the movie. Think Shrek and Donkey in Shrek; Axel Foley with Taggert and Rosewood in Beverly Hills Cop; Carl and Russell in Up.


A lot of the second act is bargaining really. But often you find people making deals or attempting to negotiate out of obligations around the midpoint.


Not sure depression matches up with the Road Back but time-wise we’re at the end of the second act. Which to me means we’re going to hit the All is Lost moment and the Dark Knight of the Soul. The point in Batman Begins when Liam Neeson burns down Batman’s house and he’s crying in the elevator about why we fall. Depression! Now get up Batman. It’s not fucking professional!


By now Luke and Batman and Shrek have all accepted who they are and the task they need to perform. They’re charging firmly toward their goal: end credits.

That’s my comparison. It won’t help you write one word of anything. I just thought it was interesting.