The Hero’s Journey is the most well known of the “journey” story structures. But there are two other, lesser known ones: the Feminine Journey and the Masculine Journey. Before I go further, know that although the names of these structures refer to gender, they have little to do with the actual gender of the character involved. These plot archetypes are actually based on the stories of two Sumerian gods: Inanna (feminine) and Gilgamesh (masculine).
These journeys are character driven. They are both centered around the character going through some type of major internal growth. The main difference being that in the Masculine Journey, the character is supported in his quest. In the Feminine Journey, the character is not supported.
In her wonderful book, Story Structure Architect, Victoria Lynn Schmidt describes the Feminine Journey as one in which the main character must face death, whether actual or symbolic. Following this “death,” the character is reborn in some way. The story follows the character’s enduring this death and rebirth. In the end of the story, the audience is left with a sense that the story will continue on. Sometimes the character acts as a mentor to another character who is about to start the same journey. Let’s take a look:
Stages of the Feminine Journey:
1. Perfect World: the character is stuck in a world that has stopped his/her inner growth
2. Realization/Betrayal: the character is pushed to make a decision after something (or everything) important is taken from her/him.
3. Awakening: After such a loss, the character decides he/she wants to reclaim his/her power. He/she begins to prepare for the journey ahead.
4. Descent: character faces one (or several) of his/her fears. He/she may want to turn back, but finds that they can’t.
5. Eye of the Storm: comes to terms with the fears/ordeals/tests he/she just faced. May assume the journey is over, but it’s not.
6. The Death: this is where the actual or symbolic death of the character takes place. All is lost, and things seem impossible at first, but then a complete reversal occurs, and the character learns something about himself/herself.
7. Support: someone or something supports him/her (or had better, or he/she may not make it out alive). The character accepts his/her role as a part of a larger whole. (According to Schmidt, many Feminist novels will end at this stage, when the hero finds that she cannot fit into her society, and so feels that death is her only option. There is “no place” for an independent woman in that world.)
8. Moment of Truth: having recovered her/his personal power, the character heads towards his/her end goal with renewed determination. He/she has officially “awakened” and sees the world in a new way. He/she is reborn (or “reborn”) as a result of this new-found understanding and the power is gives them. Here, the character faces the biggest challenge, or the worst fear, and overcomes it while remaining whole, and unsuppressed.
9. Full Circle: character returns to the “perfect world” he/she originally came from, with the addition of new self-knowledge, and reflects on how far he/she has come (may face a conflict that existed in the very beginning and, instead of failing, is successful). The world has not changed–the character has. Here, the character may find the next person to go on the journey she just took. There is a sense of continuation.
In the Masculine Journey, the character is put in a situation where he or she is forced to make a life-changing decision. According to Schmidt, here, the story forks. One decision will lead him/her through a “mini” Feminine Journey, where he/she will be reborn and grow in a positive way. The other leads him/her down a dark path which often leads to their own destruction.
Stages of the Masculine Journey:
1. Perfect World: The world is wide open, and full of possibilities for the character, but he/she has no idea what he/she wants deep down inside.
2. Friends and Enemies: the character’s friends push him/her towards a challenge
3. Preparation: the character goes for a goal outside of herself/himself, thinking that may fulfill him/her inside.
4. Small Success: getting a small taste of success, the character wants to reach higher
5. Preparations, Invitations: character is invited to go on a mini-feminine-journey, which will lead him toward awakening. Here, the story can go one of two ways. If he/she says “yes,” then the character is on the path to awakening and bettering himself/herself. He/she will focus on growing inside, rather than outside. If he/she says “no” then he/she is on the path to rebellion, and often, his/her own downfall. A “no” answer often comes when a character does not want to give up the power and success he/she has just attained.
6. Trials: character faces many ordeals. If he/she is rebelling, there is a false sense of superiority. If he/she is awakening, then things seem to be falling apart for him/her. Either way, it’s not a healthy position to be in, and cautions and prophecies exist that try to warn him.
7. Death: all is lost. If awakening, character faces death and comes out humbled by it. If rebelling, character fights against death angrily, and avoids his own transformation.
8. Awakening/Rebellion: if awakening, character knows himself/herself better and finally knows what he/she wants deep down. He/she gives up his/her “power” because he/she realizes it’s necessary for his/her own success. If rebelling, the character will refuse to face his/her flaws and change. Schmidt mentions that, because of how little the character changes, he/she has a relatively small character arc.
9. Victory/Failure: if awakening, the character is victorious and gains rewards of some kind (sometimes these are exclusively internal). He/she does the “right” thing in the end. If rebelling, he/she is brought down a destructive path of failure.
You can check out Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s Story Structure Architect on Amazon.