Is there a Virgin Story in You?
Here’s a summary I did for screenwrightist.com last December
There are Hero stories everywhere, but how familiar are you with the feminine journey to know yourself and be yourself? This is the journey of the Virgin. Movies like FIGHT CLUB, AVATAR, AN EDUCATION, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, PRETTY WOMAN, and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE all follow this archetypal structure.
THE VIRGIN JOURNEY
The Virgin begins her story in a Dependent World where she carries her kingdom’s hopes for its continuation, which are contrary to her dream for herself. She is reluctant to go against her community, but then she has an opportunity to follow her dream in secret. She acknowledges her dream by dressing the part she was meant to play, if only temporarily. Enlivened by this first experience, the Virgin goes back and forth, juggling the two worlds, enhancing her dream in the Secret World, while appeasing her Dependent World. Eventually she no longer fits in either world and she is caught shining. In this crisis, 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 trying to decide whether she will make herself small again to make people happy or choose to live her dream. She chooses to be true to herself, except in a tragedy like VIRGIN SUICIDES! The Virgin loses her protection and it’s grim, but the kingdom re-orders itself to welcome the Virgin, and the kingdom becomes a brighter place to live.
I’ve used the pronoun ‘she’ here, but the journey is taken by both male and female protagonists. Just as women can be Heroes, men can be Virgins, archetypally speaking.
VIRGINS AND HEROES
To know which story you are creating, you have to look at the protagonist`s driving force. The Hero looks to overcome his fear of death by venturing into the unknown. He learns that he can exist in the greater world without the comfort or protection of his village, a.k.a. mother (did you say Mother Complex?). His is a journey to preserve and protect what is good in his village. He discovers his ability to stand alone through a self-sacrificing journey that requires him to be brave, skilled, strong, and rugged.
The Virgin, on the other hand, is driven towards pleasure. She is seeking to know what brings her joy, through her talent, true nature or dream. She learns to hear her inner voice, while the voices of her kingdom are planning her life all around her (classic Father Complex). Her journey towards self-fulfillment brings chaos and change to the kingdom. The Virgin learns to be authentic despite the wishes of others through creative, spiritual or sexual awakening.
THE POWER OF ARCHETYPES
The journeys of the Hero and the Virgin are universal to the human condition which is why we see them in cultures all over the world. They are the two halves of becoming an individual. Names, occupations, settings, genders and time periods can all be changed but the structure is still consistent.
When viewers come in contact with these archetypes they get a feeling of elation or resonance. Some call it an “aha” moment and it gives me chills. They inspire that feeling of identification that writers want for their protagonists. People are naturally drawn to archetypes and their transformations, even more than once. All these features make writing with archetypal structure very powerful.
So, when writing a Virgin story of being true to yourself, you want to include these thirteen beats:
- 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
- Wanders in the Wilderness
- Chooses Her Light
- The Re-ordering
- The Kingdom is Brighter
The order can be re-arranged and 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!