I’m going to post my guest blog here too. Might as well have all the ideas in one place. Hope you enjoy….
A NEW STRUCTURE October, 2010
by Kim Hudson Author of THE VIRGIN’S PROMISE
Good structure is probably the most important tool a writer can employ. We all know that means having a beginning, middle and end. Many also believe it involves incorporating the beats of The Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler. This is a powerful journey for writing stories of fighting for a good cause and overcoming fear of death.
However, if you want to write a different story, one about bringing a personal dream to life, you need a different structure. I call it the Virgin’s Promise, after the Jungian term for the archetype that explores the art of being. Her journey is not defined by a specific goal such as to stop evil in its tracks. It involves her spiritual, creative or sexual awakening in a quest to be authentic as in movies like AN EDUCATION, FIGHT CLUB, and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
It turns out that the environment for a hero’s growth is very different from the conditions required for the Virgin’s journey. There is a great TED talk by Dan Pink on motivation that proves this scientifically. For story writers it means radically rethinking what you will put your protagonist through.
A few major differences are that the Virgin stays home. She doesn’t have to go to a foreign land because the obstacle she has to overcome is created by the environment she lives in – her Dependent World. She is dependent on the people around her for reasons like politics of the day (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE), traditional values (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM), or social conditioning (LEGALLY BLOND). Even if she leaves, she continues to care about what these people think. It’s better if she stays where she can directly face her conflict.
She faces this conflict in a very different way from the Hero. She is finding what brings her joy as a driving force. For the Virgin, this means finding a place where she is free of fear, if only temporarily. In high contrast to her Dependent World she finds a place where she feels natural and playful. Her true nature begins to shine in this Secret World. Until she has to go back, of course, which she does frequently (TOOTSIE).
The last major difference I’m going to point out is the role of the antagonist. In a Hero story he is one scary dude until he is obliterated or neutralized. In a Virgin story the antagonist is capable of personal growth, and is often someone she is attached to by love, such as her father. The antagonist may eventually see the value in the Virgin fulfilling her potential and make room for her as an individual. As a result, others are inspired to follow their bliss as well. The Hero preserves the good in his village while the Virgin inspires needed growth in her kingdom.
In a nutshell I would describe the Virgin’s journey like this:
The Virgin begins her story in a Dependent World. She carries her kingdom’s hopes for their continuation, which are contrary to her dream for herself. At first she is afraid to go against her community but she has a small Opportunity to Shine in secret and she takes it. She acknowledges her dream by Dressing the Part. Enlivened, the Virgin creates a Secret World and goes back and forth, juggling the two worlds, enhancing her dream and appeasing others. Eventually she No Longer Fits Her World and gets Caught Shining. Suddenly the Virgin has a moment of clarity and Gives Up What Has Been Keeping Her Stuck. The Kingdom Goes into Chaos. She Wanders in the Wilderness and must decide whether she will make herself small again or choose to live her dream. She Chooses Her Light! She loses her protection and it is grim, but the kingdom Re-orders itself to accommodate the blossoming Virgin, and finds the Kingdom is Brighter.
The order can be re-arranged, some beats can be explored more deeply or repeatedly while others are represented by a single line of dialogue, or a look. The range of ways these beats can be used is infinite!
Finally, I hope you noticed that I used male and female Virgin examples. The journey applies to both genders, similar to yin and yang theory where we all have a feminine and masculine side.
Here are the thirteen beats for quick reference:
- Dependent World
- Price of Conformity
- Opportunity to Shine
- Dress the Part
- Secret World
- No Longer Fits Her world
- Caught shining
- Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck
- Kingdom in Chaos
10. Wanders in the Wilderness
11. Chooses Her Light
12. The Re-ordering
13. The Kingdom is Brighter
Enjoy the journey!