What is the first thing we do when we meet someone new? We ask them about their story, and in turn we tell them something about ourselves. We are hard-wired for telling and hearing stories.

But what is a story? More importantly, what is a good story?

It has been famously said: The death of a million people is a statistic. The death of one loving father is a tragedy.

Years ago, Christopher Vogler wrote a short essay for the leadership team of the Hollywood studio he was working for. In that essay, he leveraged the more academic scholarship of Joseph Campbell, who in turn leveraged the more psychological scholarship of Carl Jung, to arrive at something similar to a “story algorithm” that he proposed should be used to help evaluate potential story ideas submitted to the studio.

Over time, that initial essay generated so much interest that Vogler decided to dedicate himself to expanding his thoughts into a full book, The Writer’s Journey, which has since become one of the standard reference works for story.

Following Campbell and Jung, Vogler identifies the following elements as being universally present across all ages, cultures, and people in the “stories that endure”: the Indian Vedas, the Greek epics, Shakespeare’s plays, Hollywood blockbusters.

You can test the validity of this story algorithm for yourself. Think of one of your favorite stories. How well does the The Hero’s Journey algorithm describe the way your favorite story works?