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March 28, 2016

Heroines and the Hero’s Journey - Guest Post by Jen McConnel


Every story has to have a hero, but for far too long, those heroes have all been male. Fortunately, recent young adult titles have introduced more female heroines onto the scene, with girls like Katniss Everdeen, Celaena Sardothien and many more like them putting their lives at risk for what is right in their respective worlds. In these situations, what matters most is that they keep going and persevere in trying to navigate the murky waters of their lives. In this blog, author Jen McConnel discusses the hero's journey and how she applied it to the writing of TRIUMPH OVER CHAOS, the final installment of her Red Magic series.

I’ve always been a fan of the monomyth idea and Joseph Campbell; the idea that our cultural stories share themes, structure and archetypal characters seems to play out again and again in western mythology, not to mention the pop cultural appearances of the hero’s journey, ranging from Star Wars to The Lion King. When I sat down to write my first fantasy trilogy, I made the intentional choice to follow the arc of the hero’s journey through Darlena’s struggles, although I know I deviated from the structure as the story demanded.

Although the idea of “home, away, home," as I’ve heard the hero’s journey summed up, isn’t a new one, it is still a structure that is more often applied to male protagonists than to female. However, authors, film makers and other creators are not allowing gender to limit them, and it’s getting easier to find examples of stories following women through this classic narrative arc. Sometimes the structure arches through multiple books, as seems to be the case with Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and sometimes, we see the arc completed in a single book, as with The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. However authors choose to interpret the story structure, the monomyth and the hero’s journey are deeply ingrained in many cultures, and modern stories that embrace this ancient structure hold a strong appeal for readers.

One invaluable resource when I was writing the Red Magic series was Christopher Vogler’s book THE WRITER'S JOURNEY, and that, coupled with Campbell’s HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES provided the backbone of the story that I set out to tell. But even when following an established structure, the story often surprised me as I was writing, taking me on my own hero’s journey through hope and despair and back again. That, I think, is the magic of storytelling; even when we think we know where we’re going, the words often shift when we least expect it, plunging us off the path and into a dark forest of adventure…just like the hero who answers the call to adventure and steps into the unknown.