It’s probably safe to say that most writers are familiar with the Hero’s Journey, or some variation. I learned about it years ago when I read, “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher Vogler, which is based on Joseph Campbell’s work (and described in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces).
But it wasn’t until I took a mythology class with author Susan Sipal, that I discovered that the Hero’s Journey wasn’t the only story. Actually, there is a feminine version and it’s based on the story of the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, an epic that describes her descent into the underworld.
Writers have used the archetypes in Inanna’s story to map out a Heroine’s Journey, as Victoria Lynn Schmidt did in her book, “Story Structure Architect.”
Stages of the Heroine’s Journey
- Perfect World – the heroine’s everyday world
- Realization/Betrayal – an inciting incident and decision point
- Awakening: – decision to take the journey
- Descent – the heroine faces her fears but can’t turn back
- Eye of the Storm – tests and ordeals
- The Death – an actual or symbolic death
- Support – help comes, possibly from the larger community
- Moment of Truth – rebirth and facing the biggest challenge
- Full Circle – heroine returns to the perfect world with more self-awareness
In the second book of my Hathor Legacy series, “Hathor Legacy: Burn,” I used the Heroine’s Journey to create a character arc for my heroine, Nadira.
She starts out in a perfect world (or so she thinks) as a Guardian on the planet Hathor. Then as she starts investigating a series of fires, she discovers information that’s been hidden from her. After a series of setbacks, she’s forced to accept that she needs support from others in order to solve the crimes and confront the conspirators.
Her journey isn’t just about dealing with the threats to the perfect world, but she has to come to terms with her own identity as well. With her powerful PSI abilities she’s one of the strongest of the Guardians, and the Elders are threatened by her relationship with Jonathan Keel (the hero).
When she gets to the full circle stage, she has a different awareness of herself, her relationship with Jonathan and the Guardian organization that she’s a part of. That stage also provides a jumping off point for the next story in the series to begin.
Unlike the Hero’s Journey, the Heroine’s Journey isn’t about going on a quest to slay the dragon; instead it’s a journey within. By facing her deepest fears, and addressing her own needs and desires, she can come to terms with her place in the larger community.
Nadira is forced to realize her vulnerability and her strength. All the while, she has to accept that, though she’s stronger than most of the Guardians, she can accept help and support when needed. And most of all, she can accept Jonathan’s love as they build their relationship.
Just about every story has some foundation in one of these journeys, so you’ll find them very familiar. Readers are drawn to them because they are the basis of myths and legends that have been told in every language and every generation. These archetypes will strengthen your story and draw readers in because the themes are universal.
For more information:
If you want to learn more, there are variations of the Heroine’s Journey, including a version in Kim Hudson’s book, “The Virgin’s Promise.” Author Susan Sipal has a listing of workshops on her site. http://spsipal.blogspot.com/
Victoria Schmidt’s article on the Sharper Stories site:http://sharperstories.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-feminine-and-masculine-journeys/
Deborah A. Bailey is the author of two SF romance novels: Hathor Legacy: Outcast and Hathor Legacy: Burn, and a short story collection, Electric Dreams: Seven Futuristic Tales. In addition, she’s the author of three non-fiction books, and articles for various publications. Visit her site at: http://dbaileycoach.com/brightbooks/.