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Voyage and Return


Disciplines > Storytelling > Plots > Booker's Seven Basic Plots > Voyage and Return

Description | Discussion | See also



In this plot, the hero wanders almost aimlessly in a strange land, having adventures, learning and discovering new things.

The story may start light and pleasurable but after a while confusion and darker problems appear. Being in a strange land, the hero has to trust locals, who do not all turn out to be trustworthy and archetypal characters such as the Trickster may well appear.

Excitement is caused by threats and danger and it may seem like the hero is trapped or doomed. Of course they finally find their way out to return to their world, a wiser, more careful person.

The structure of the story is:

  1. From normality to falling into the other world.
  2. Dreamy fascination with puzzling and unfamiliar things.
  3. Frustration as the mood darkens.
  4. Nightmare as there seems no way out.
  5. Thrilling escape and return to normality.


This storyline is similar in many ways to other plots, such as The Quest, though with less purpose. While the quester has an aim, and end point of purpose, the voyager's intent is more about  journey and happenstance than specific goals.

Many of us live like this. We wander through our lives without any grand career plan, coping as best we can with whatever life throws at us. It can result in a meaningless existence that many regret in later years. It can also be carefree and relaxed.

Voyage is the pattern of the explorer who enters new lands with the broad goal of discovery. They make maps and bring back whatever they find interesting that they can carry, although their greatest prize is knowledge. To be a successful voyager requires courage, intuition, resourcefulness and resilience, as can be seen in explorers of the past such as Vasco da Gama and Ernest Shackleton.

Voyages may start with a goal in mind, then turn into something else. This was how America was discovered as European sailors tried to find new ways to India and the East. Fictional exploration stories may follow this pattern, especially endless episodic tales such as Star Trek's 'boldly going where no man has gone before'.

Examples of Voyage and Return include Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland and The Labyrinth.

'Voyage and Return' is the fourth of Booker's Seven Basic Plots.

See also

Campbell's 'Hero's Journey' Monomyth, Propp 20. Return: Hero sets out for home

Booker, C. (2004). The Seven Basic Plots, London: Continuum Books

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