The Hero's Journey is a basic function of narratives that illustrates a character's path to becoming a hero. The process was first and famously identified by scholar Joseph Cambel, but has existed since time immemorial. The now fully integrated concept of a Hero's Journey is a basic measure of writing for everything from books, to movies, to video-games.
Steps of the Journey
The Call to Adventure:
The Call to Adventure is the first step of the Journey. it shows the hero prior to their journey and motivation to take their first steps out into broadening their view, with either a literal journey/adventure or a figurative one such as a great personal undertaking they have not made before.
The Second part of the Hero's Journey is called Supernatural Aid. The Aid need not actually be supernatural; Depending on setting it may be completely grounded and plausible aid but is still considered extraordinary. A mythic hero gets a sword or magic, a science-fiction hero gets a powerful device, a hunter gains a useful weapon, a magical creature gains a new power etc. This may even extend to gaining a new ally with such powers, tools or knowledge. By the end of this step the main character is well equipped to overcome most perceived obstacles, having gained an advantage to combat future threats to their journey.
The third step in the Hero's Journey is the Threshold, the moment when stakes become raised and the hero realizes the sort of danger they are undertaking. This is the beginning of character transformation and a major part in their Character Arc. Often this stage is accented by receiving aid from a mentor or similar figure to give advice on what lies before the hero and/or how to overcome it.
Challenges and Temptation:
The fourth stage of the Hero's Journey is dealing with Challenges and Temptations. This is one of the longer and more drawn-out stages of the story. In issues of confrontation it is dealing with fighting many foes, exploration may see it as crossing hazardous terrains, purely character pieces may see it as dealing with personal temptation. Whatever the form, this stage deals with overcoming major, though not in anyway unexpected, obstacles.
The fifth stage on the Hero's Journey is the Abyss, or disaster. In this stage the character goes through some major loss. This may be nearly dying, failing to save others, being imprisoned, dishonored, seriously injured, robbed of their Supernatural Aid, or on occasion all of the above. The Abyss is the major turning point in the story when the hero is broken down to an all-time-low.
The sixth stage of the Hero's Journey is called the Transformation, it is a time of hope and rebirth. The hero finds some way to overcome the major set-back of the Abyss, through skill, determination or luck and begins to come back from this major upset, regaining some form of stability. This is almost always a time of single-minded focus on part of the hero to become more than what they were prior to their fall, learn from their mistakes begin to make up for their previous failure.
The seventh stage of the Hero's Journey is the Atonement. The hero, having learned from their encounter with death (either figurative or literal) seeks to regain their way. If nearly killed by a villain or having seen others killed by the villain, this is the point when the hero makes up their mind to take the fight to them, in character pieces this is a time when the hero sets out to overcome a major flaw in their character that lead to the Abyss, less tangible sources of the Abyss, such as events or symbolic concepts, will attempt to be overcome once and for all.
The final stage of the Hero's Journey is titled "The Return", the hero, slays the villain, rescues the helpless, conquers his/her demons etc and overcomes the major obstacle before them. If there are any remaining obstacles they are not of sufficient threats to the hero and become trivialities from that point forth. Often this stage is accented through reward from an outside source, whether a gift from the heavens, a great treasure uncovered, an major advantage gained or some other reward granted after or just prior too the final conflict. After the major obstacle has been overcome the hero "returns home", either literally or figuratively - by returning to a point of contentment that they had prior to the start of the Journey.