Thursday, September 23, 2010

Different Journeys

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between male and female journeys, most especially since it was one of the factors that surprised me with my most recent project—the end and resolution stage went on longer than I thought—and not because I couldn’t manage to wrap it up but because the heroine’s journey simply wasn’t finished yet.

It also occurs to me that labeling these different journeys by gender isn’t the most descriptive or accurate distinction, so maybe different labels are in order. Maybe, pulling from The Hero Within, the Warrior journey versus the Wanderer or Martyr’s journey is more apt. Except, of course, martyr is just so laden with negative imagery.

But here’s the big distinction. With the male or warrior journey, the arc ends once the protagonist has faced his internal or external demon and gained the prize, whether it be a hard earned nugget of wisdom or an actual physical thing. He then returns briefly to his ordinary world a changed person; either wiser, gentler, more understanding, whatever. His eyes have been open in some fundamental way and he has achieved a whole new self.

But the feminine journey doesn’t stop there. For women, learning how to wield that newfound wisdom or power once back in their ordinary world is a critical part of their journey. It’s not just about claiming power or wisdom, but facing down others to use it. Because it is hard for women to claim that power, hard for them to speak their truth, discovering those things is only one part of their transformation. Now they must use it and in the process, redefine the relationships in their lives.

The warrior archetype is lacking in wisdom and needs that to temper his warrior tendencies.

Women, on the other hand, need to learn to tap into their warrior tendencies.

I think that’s an interesting distinction. It can also be hugely helpful in trying to determine where the emotional juice of your story is.

I’m also trying to see how that fits in with the increasingly popular woman warrior archetype, such as the kick @ss heroine found so often in paranormal and urban fantasy books. Clearly those entire genres are a means of reclaiming the warrior archetype for women—a much needed balance. I’ll have to go pull some books off my shelf and see, but I’m wondering if part of that journey is forcing others in one’s life to get comfortable with that warrior woman archetype; to show the benefits of that archetype within communities and society since it is something society has not been comfortable with in the past.

I’m also pondering how it works when applied to middle grade fiction rather than YA or adult fiction. It seems to me, that up until middle grade books, the gender based distinctions are much less apparent, which isn’t surprising since adolescence is when those hormones really kick in.

Looking at Theodosia, it seems to me I’ve flipped the archetypes a bit; she is a bit of a warrior, albeit a sneaky, supernatural one. So her journeys tend to be about tempering those tendencies and gaining wisdom.

Nathaniel Fludd, on the other hand, is about as far away from a warrior as you can get. Each book is about him gaining one new step toward becoming a warrior, and then the final books will feature him moving through his world as his new warrior self.

Anyway, I just found it interesting to think about—specifically to be conscious of when plotting or writing the book because whether the wisdom is the end point or learning to use that wisdom is, will greatly alter the shape of the story.

And of course these are gross generalizations; there’s no way to avoid that when talking about archetypal journeys, but I think it’s something worth considering.


Mel said...

Oh I love this! Female power. I think you put it perefectly.

kathrynjankowski said...

"For women, learning how to wield that newfound wisdom or power once back in their ordinary world is a critical part of their journey."

So true! This is a huge part of my MC's development; the way her life changes after gaining power is much more complicated than she imagined.

Thoughtful post.

Anonymous said...

Trying to paint or write the story as I see it in my head sent me to prowl the internet for archetypes. I am so glad you wrote this this week the other interesting use of the warrior journey I found was applied to a woman's journey as she labors to give birth and then parent the child.
Just wanted to say thanks for your thoughts.