Plot Structures: The Heroine’s Journey (NaNo Prep 14)

Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong. — Sophia McDougall

(A castigation, not a complement. Whole article at the link.)

To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. — Cardinal Suhard

Image courtesy of Maira Kouvara via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Maira Kouvara via stock.xchng

The Heroine’s Journey has not been codified the way The Hero’s Journey has, but it is still useful to consider gender differences in terms of roles and realism.

As much as we (especially me) may wish we live in an equal world, we know we don’t, and (especially if you are writing a character of the opposite gender) it is useful to look at the types of differences in the processes.

Several books I’ve found address (compare/contrast) the journey females take (contrasting it with a man’s experience).

45 Master Characters, in particular, underscores that a man can travel on a “feminine” journey, just as a woman can take the “masculine.” It’s just that the majority of males or females take their respective paths in stories, so that’s where Schmidt makes her distinctions.

Roughly put, the difference between the masculine and feminine journeys (according to Schimdt), is that the MJ ends (transitions at that magic 75% mark) with the hero’s awakening of consciousness. Connecting with his humanity, the greater good, the noble goal. This is The road back and Returning with the Elixir from yesterday, where we get to see how the ordeal has fundamentally changed him (that’s the consciousness part).

In the FJ the story begins (1st plot-point, that magical 25% mark) with the awakening of consciousness.

Here is the Feminine Journey as discussed (in much greater length and detail) in 45 Master Characters.

Image from

Image from

Step 0. The illusion of  the perfect world. A false sense of security or unhealthy coping mechanisms prevent the MC from seeing reality. (This has the opening of Cinderella all over it.) MC is accepting of the status quo.

  1. The Betrayal or Realization
    1. Her eyes are opened, coping mechanisms are no longer effective, and/or everything important to her is taken away.
    2. She can’t rationalize or make excuses anymore.
    3. She is pushed to the place of choice.
  2. The Awakening: Preparing for the journey
    1. She wants to reclaim her power
    2. She actively prepares for her journey (a mentor figure may help)
    3. Makes a life-altering decision to move forward
  3. The Descent: MC must face the consequences of her decision
    1. Stripped of the (external) things she thought would save her
    2. Must learn to trust her instincts (recognize Allies from Enemies)
    3. A time of raising the stakes
  4. Image courtesy of Jose Bernalte via stock.xchng

    Image courtesy of Jose Bernalte via stock.xchng

    The Eye of the Storm

    1. A reprieve. A sense of victory and increased confidence
    2. May result in a false sense of security
    3. A small taste of success that may fuel her desire to succeed again.
    4. May help others or be told by old friends she’s ready to come home now: the journey is complete.
  5. Death. All is lost.
    1. This is where the what she thought she’d conquered comes back. Stronger, or else using full strength for the first time, because now she is recognized as a threat.
    2. #3 is echoed with intensity. All the fears and lies that have assaulted her til now seem like a crushingly overwhelming reality.
  6. Image courtesy of Maira Kouvara via stock.xchnge

    Image courtesy of Maira Kouvara
    via stock.xchnge


    1. Connection & cooperation (elements traditionally associated with females) make a way to continue on. Without completely rescuing her or stealing her thunder.
      1. Think the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion in The Wizard of Oz.
      2. A significant divergence from the go-it-alone ethic of some stories– though not necessarily of the Hero’s Journey.
  7. Rebirth. The Moment of Truth.
    1. All doubts are gone. After death, any enemy can be overcome.
    2. “She has found her courage, used her brain and won her own heart. The three combined are needed to attain her goal.”
  8. Full Circle. Return to the Perfect World.
    1. Faces the final question of whether she will return to her original role.
    2. Has broader, deeper, sight to see the perfect world for what it really is.
    3. Considers whether her initiation means freedom is possible for the others as well (an intangible correlation to The Elixir of the Hero’s Journey).

Where as the Male hero usually gets the girl, the glory or the gold (external, tangible validations), the Female’s mark is often deeply internal and ongoing.

Image courtesy of Oana Ema via stock.xchnge

Image courtesy of Oana Ema via stock.xchnge

One significant observation is that this heroine being transformed does not mean that society is. There are still ogres and tyrants surrounding her, but she is better equipped now both to face those enemies, and to guide others into their own strength, even one by one.

Both heroes and heroine, in continuing stories, may find their treasures at risk of being stolen, but that is the way of all valuable things in a world with selfish people.

We must continue to be vigilant.