A few years ago I got an email from a writerly organization I must’ve inadvertently signed up to receive mailings from, and something in it caught my eye as I was about to delete it. I clicked to read more about it and was so glad I did. Because it led me to Kim Hudson’s book, The Virgin’s Promise, which could’ve most fittingly been titled The Heroine’s Journey, and probably would’ve been if there wasn’t already an excellent and related book out there by that same title, by Maureen Murdock.
I’d read about Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” (The Hero with a Thousand Faces) and I read Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey;Mythic Structure for Writers, which is a book many writers use in developing novels and which is based largely on Joseph Campbell’s ideas. Vogler outlines the 12 stages of a journey a hero passes through, saying that there’s a basic mythical structure that all stories follow. The hero and the characters he meets along the way on his journey are all archetypes, character types that have occurred throughout human history and are in all movies and stories–the Shadow characters/villians/antagonists, the Mentors, the Shapeshifters (werewolves or vampires or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde types, or just two-faced people…), Tricksters, Allies, the Wise Old Man, the Crone, the Goddess, the Hag, the Whore, the King, the Puer…
Hoping Campbell and Vogler’s ideas would help me with plotting issues, I tried hard to see how my story/stories fit in these 12 stages, or could be made to, but sometimes it seemed like such a stretch, like trying to fit something in a mold that wasn’t quite right for it.
But when I read the email article about Kim’s book, The Virgin’s Promise, I immediately thought, Yes! This sounds more like it. Someone else found that the stages of the Hero’s Journey didn’t match what was going on in her story either, and it doesn’t mean that your story’s ‘wrong’–it can mean the template is wrong for your story. And I ordered the book and read it. And reread it, and highlighted. It gave me a lot to chew. It made sense. It fit my stories.
Basically, Kim’s book explains why the hero and heroine’s journey are often different (has to do with a lot of very interesting stuff about the differences between the masculine and feminine; she has a background in Jungian psychology, which is also the psychology behind the archetypes of Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler’s work), and she gives her own flexible template (13 beats) that the heroine’s journey often follows, the feminine journey. She gives many examples of how the 13 beats of the Virgin Story can be seen in various popular movies which fit the Virgin’s Journey rather than the Hero’s (even a story with a male protagonist can be a Virgin’s Journey).
Her idea of the Anti-Virgin Story (where the Virgin/heroine/protagonist is driven to suppress her inner nature/dream and her community is pushing her to bring her true self to life; a flip-flop of what happens in the Virgin’s journey, where the Virgin is trying to let her true nature/dream out and the community is suppressing it)–was particularly helpful to me, as that’s what one of my stories is, an Anti-Virgin story.
When I applied Kim’s stages to my stories, things made much more sense and fell into place. Her ideas were so helpful. I could now see things I needed to do that would strengthen my plot, or how a little reordering of the scenes I already had might help.
There were a few things I didn’t understand, and was eager to, so I contacted Kim with my questions by posting on her blog. She was more than generous in explaining the concepts and helping me understand them and see how I could apply them. I highly recommend this book, and Kim.
If you’re interested, check out her blog: