Episode 177: So She Does it Differently

On March 5, 2022, Kasie and Rex kicked off Women’s History Month with the Heroine’s Journey, the first in a series on the topic. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

The Heroine’s Journey Part 1


  • What is the heroine’s journey?
  • How is it different from the hero’s?
  • Critical questions before deeper exploration
Photo by Milad Farhani on Pexels.com

Segment 1/2

First, The South Carolina Writers Association continues to be the best way to build your writing career in the state. With dozens of chapters organizes regionally – Chapin/Irmo, Columbia I, II, and II all here in the area – and virtual chapters aligned by genre – short fiction, poetry, and romance among them – you’re sure to find a supportive group to share your work and get help on revision. Critique groups are essential for growing as a writer and the SCWA is a supportive, encouraging environment. Visit myscwa.org to learn more. 

SCWA chapters can congratulate themselves on readying the work of their members for submission especially when those submissions are accepted and even more so when they’re winners. Congratulations!

  • The SC Academy of Authors awarded the 2022 Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship in Poetry to Columbia III writer Danielle Verwers, for her work “Between Two Poles”.
  • The 2022 Charlotte Lit LIT/south awards include flash fiction winner Amber Wheeler Bacon, fiction finalist Mary Alice Dixon, and poetry finalist Yvette R. Murray. 

Then here’s the quick link recap to our previous Hero’s Journey episodes: We started with Derek Berry’s contextualization of The Hero’s Journey in Literature (episode 38), followed it up with three weeks in a row of The Mentor and the Goddess (episode 39), The Companions (episode 40), and The Call (episode 41). We had another guest, Uchechi Kalu, to talk about The Hero’s Journey in Non-Western Literature (episode 41), and finally finished up with The Anti-Hero (episode 42) in mid-May 2019. 

We’re working on the Heroine’s Journey from this book by Gail Carringer. Here’s the Heroine’s Journey visual outline:

Image from Gail Carriger’s website

To start, the heroine is seeking reunification because someone has been taken from her – the broken familial network is the instigation point here. The hero’s journey is “the call” wherein our hero is motivated to move after something, in the heroine’s journey she’s on the path to wholeness or completion.

During the descent, we see the antagonists forcing the heroine away from her family network, drawing her out (involuntarily) while she seeks the missing piece of her familial community. During the search, she’s approaching people who have information she needs and is assisted by those loyal companions who have refused to be set aside. Then comes the compromise – the thing she gives up to get closer to her goal and the subsequent negotiation for reunification. At last the ascent, toward wholeness or completion.

Walk us through it, Elizabeth Bennett – Pride & Prejudice anyone? – As Elizabeth celebrates her sister Jane’s good fortune, she nonetheless sees the contrast between her own family (a little tacky) and Mr. Darcy’s high-class pals. She rejects Mr. Collins and is leaves on a journey with her aunt and uncle. While on her journey, she learns more about Mr. Darcy by watching him with his sister, until they get the news that Lydia has run away – scandalizing them all and ruining – perhaps forever – Elizabeth’s own hopes for happiness as Mrs. Darcy. Then, Darcy steps in to help – he’s become a friend – and Elizabeth, upon accepting that help and swallowing her own pride, is able to admit as much. Then Darcy reunites Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth has no further reason to reject him and, what’s more, she does not want to. Her family is reunited and she is granted her HEA.

Segment 2/3

SCWA is also organizing live in-person and virtual events for your education and networking enjoyment. On March 24th, SCWA is proud to present Angela Belcher Epps speaking in the Become an Author series on the topic of Get Into Your Writing Space. The next live event is Shared Writing Time, a midday Zoom sesh where writers gather to respond to prompts and share space and purpose. It’s been hosted by our Columbia II chapter and the Aiken chapter as well. May 17 – St Patty’s Day! – is the next session for this and it’s limited to members-only, so become a member of SCWA today.

So how is the heroine’s journey like (and not like) the hero’s journey?

  • Purpose – while the hero is looking to defeat someone, the heroine is looking for reunification with someone who was taken from her, connecting with others, finding family
  • Approach – while the hero is on the offensive most of the time, actively pursuing his goal, the heroine is achieving hers through information gathering. She is not conqueror, she is builder.
  • Strength – the hero must eventually go it alone, his strength is in his ability to do so (finally). The heroine is the opposite. Requesting aid is a sign of strength, it does not diminish her journey or her character to seek help.
  • Power – when the hero is at his most powerful, he is alone (companions knocked unconscious or left behind), the heroine is at her most powerful in community; powerful moments occur with others.
  • Ending – the hero has sacrificed so much for his goal that in the end, his journey is bittersweet in that he’s grown too powerful to go back to what and who he was, or he’s too far isolated from others to share in his success. The heroine, though, finds herself surrounded by friends and family – reunited – since that was the goal from the very beginning.

Segment 4

So, I think the next few weeks can be spent on this. There are some interesting (leading) comments made in the book I’m excited to unpack. And she tells three stories from mythology that show the original foundation for this and then dives into the canonical rejection – almost like an intentional burying – of the heroine’s journey. 

So on that note, and to maybe see if we’ve discussed these key differences yet:

  • The binary – the sorting of stories into “hero” or “heroine” status is a gender exercise, but the genders don’t really matter, do they?
  • How does the gender-fication of these concepts affect how we see stories?
  • What does it say about our understanding of “hero” that we expect him to eventually overcome his challenge alone?
  • How does that social requirement isolate and alienate the men/heroes who adopt it?
  • How does diminishing the happily-ever-after as childish, or quaint also diminish the stories that seek resolution in a better place?
  • Women’s fiction, rom-com, and romance are all dismissed as being frivolous or silly, but why? Are the characters not changing in meaningful ways? Are they not addressing critical issues? Even working through such circumstances as loss or grief?

Lots to unpack with this topic. Should be a great month of shows!

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