A Brief Overview
I figure that most people, or at the very least, most writers, have heard of the hero’s journey. I’m not going into all the complexity of it here and now, maybe in another article. This is just the briefest of overviews.
If you’d really like to dig into the topic, I strongly recommend Gail Carringer’s book on the topic, The Heroine’s Journey.
Basically, the hero is called to action and must leave. The hero may be reluctant to go, but eventually, they realize that they must. There will be adventures and learning along the way, as well as a grand conflict. A lot of the story is frequently told in this middle section, what happens after the hero leaves. Eventually, the hero returns. The hero may or may not be able to stay — saving the day may have changed the hero in ways that make it impossible to remain in normal society. (Think Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings.)
If you consume Western literature, you have come across the hero’s journey again and again and again. It’s a cornerstone of our culture. Not all stories require a hero’s journey. There are as many ways to tell a story as there are stories. The hero’s journey is just one of them.
So what about the heroine’s journey? What is that all about?
NOTE: I’m talking about using the heroine’s journey as a fiction-writing tool. I am not talking about the heroine’s journey as a therapeutic tool, as popularized by Maureen Murdock.
First of all, I want to make sure that you realize that though the terms are “hero” and “heroine” the journeys are not, in fact, gendered. Any male, boy, or alien that has five genders could follow a heroine’s journey and vice versa. Hero just implies the type of journey, same as heroine.
The first step in the heroine’s journey is also a separation. However, it isn’t a voluntary separation. She is cast out from her family, her group, her society. She doesn’t want to leave. She didn’t hear a call to action. This isn’t because she’s without motivation or passive. But something happens and she’s no longer with her family. (Think Harry Potter — his family is killed, which starts him off on a heroine’s journey.)