About Writers, book promotion, Uncategorized, writing technique

A Heroine’s Journey

  • by Mike Van Horn

I just started reading “The Heroine’s Journey” by Gail Carriger. I opened to the Intro and read this:

Here is the Hero’s Journey in one pithy sentence: Increasingly isolated protagonist stomps around prodding evil with pointy bits, eventually fatally prods baddie, gains glory and honor.

Here is the Heroine’s Journey in one pithy sentence: Increasingly networked protagonist strides around with good friends, prodding them and others on to victory, together.

This brought tears to my eyes; then I laughed out loud. The heroine’s journey is the way I write my stories. Her second sentence could be a blurb for my trilogy.

Hey, I even have a heroine—singer Selena M, who sings real songs. My stories are told from her perspective.

I’ve been so frustrated trying to cram my stories into the framework of the hero’s journey, and they just don’t fit.

I write science fiction. The standard sci fi trope is to fight the nasty evil aliens who are out to invade Earth and destroy humankind. Ray guns and blasters and dogfights in space using World War II tactics. Stories like this no longer grab my attention.

My heroine Selena is a renowned singer who’s reluctant to sing her most meaningful songs because they make her feel vulnerable. She rescues an injured alien whose spaceship crashed on her hillside. The alien is also a singer, who ran away from home because she wasn’t allowed to sing her heartfelt songs, and set out with friends to explore the galaxy. The two help each other recapture their passion for singing.

A theme of my trilogy is Selena’s efforts to come to terms with her singing. How to honor it as the passion of her life. How to balance performing with flying off into space. How to perform her music on other worlds.

On this journey she forms multiple partnerships. With the alien that crashed. With two other women; they become the Three Spaceketeers. With several powerful men, including one modeled after Elon Musk. With a raunchy country singer and a brash New York agent. With two aliens who rescue her when she’s marooned in deep space. She trains a small AI device to develop a personality so it can be her companion when she’s alone in space. All of these help her on her adventures, help her when she’s in a jam, and saves her life multiple times.

Her antagonists are not bloodthirsty alien monsters but officious government bureaucrats who want to grab the alien technology for themselves. She doesn’t kill them; she outsmarts them.

She strides around with good friends, and they prod each other to victory. Yes, I like that! Heroine’s journey.

*   *   *

I explore several ideas in my stories that I may share with you in future posts:

— Why are aliens friendly? What happened to the hostile aliens?

— If aliens come to Earth, what do they want?

— What do aliens look like? Not too humanoid, not too weird. Why? How does convergent evolution play out?

— Why haven’t alien races spread throughout the galaxy, including Earth?

— Do the aliens evolve higher and higher intelligence?

— How does one plausibly leap between stars?

*   *   *

Mike’s trilogy includes:

— Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard

— My Spaceship Calls Out to Me

— Spacegirl Yearning

He’s now working on “book 4 of the trilogy”:

— Alien Invasion: There Goes the Neighborhood

Check these out on galaxytalltales.com. Available as ebooks and paperbacks.

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15 thoughts on “A Heroine’s Journey

  1. I enjoyed this, Mike! Especially this bit: “Her antagonists are not bloodthirsty alien monsters but officious government bureaucrats who want to grab the alien technology for themselves. She doesn’t kill them; she outsmarts them.

    She strides around with good friends, and they prod each other to victory. Yes, I like that! Heroine’s journey.”
    ………………………….

    I trust all of this isn’t deadly dull? (Just kidding; put the gun down!)

    Can you post a paragraph or two of the writing referenced here?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    Young females finding themselves, coming to grips with various challenges, is not exactly my thing (unless they’re mice). Is this YA? Sure sounds like YA to me.

    A new take on the Sci Fi genre? That is always welcome.

    I’m curious: why did you feel you had to ‘cram your stories into the framework of the hero’s journey’? Why not just write your story and let it go where it will?

    Liked by 4 people

    • Mimi, I’m not writing it as YA, but there’s not much in here that would make it not YA-suitable. Except most of the characters are older than YA. My heroine says, “Oh Lordy, Morty, I’m forty.” She’s afraid she’s going over the hill.
      Why cram it into Hero’s Journey? Because I went to a seminar where the guru said we should do that! But I gave up because it didn’t work.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. victoracquista says:

    Thanks, Mike, for posting about a topic I know a little bit about. I’ve not read “The Heroine’s Journey” by Gail Carriger, but her pithy characterizations are in service to her argument that the hero’s journey and heroine’s journey are different. I am more familiar with the hero’s journey and her characterization is, in my opinion, off base.

    My last novel has a female protagonist who embarks on a journey of self-transformation. The narrative structure is a classic hero’s journey; although, I didn’t realize it until after I had written the book. I listened to a webinar where Chris Vogler was the guest. He has written extensively about the hero’s journey and incorporated the elements of Joseph Campbells “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” in his analysis. Vogler has worked extensively with script writers and film producers in how to represent the hero’s journey in film. He’s also written extensively about how the writer’s journey often has the elements of a heroic saga: https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Journey-Mythic-Structure-3rd/dp/193290736X/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=chris+vogler&qid=1629726909&s=digital-text&sr=1-2-catcorr.

    I’ve now listened to him speak a few more times about the elements that characterize a hero’s journey. I wound up doing a pod-log episode on the topic of the hero’s/heroine’s journey in case anyone wants to listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxi-6HhWTko

    The character Rey in the recent Star Wars movies follows a pretty typical hero’s journey in both her character arc and the story arc. She is a female protagonist, but it is the classic hero’s journey, not the sort of heroine characterization Carriger suggests. However, the observation that feminine archetypes are more relational (networked, communal) and less go-it-alone than masculine archetypes is, I think, completely valid.
    I do applaud your efforts to break some of the sci fi stereotypes and your heroine singer sounds like a wonderful character to travel together with on galactic adventures.
    As an aside, my main character in this recent novel is Serena M. Maybe Selena M is her soul sister.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Mike adds a whole dimension to his science fiction stories: Music. “My main character Selena M is a singer—so is the alien. I wrote lyrics for songs she performs and had them put to music. Big thanks to my composer, Troy Lush, to vocalist Mari Mack, a blues singer with the perfect voice for Selena, and producer Chrisopher Krotky. And the lyricist? That’s me, who can’t sing. Who knew?”
    https://galaxytalltales.com/sci-fi-music/
    —-
    I’ve enjoyed “space songs” since Jefferson Starship’s album “Blows Against the Empire.” The track, “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight,” was the first love song I’d heard that was set in interstellar space. I loved it.
    And, who can’t love “Benson Arizona” from John Carpenter’s movie Dark Star.
    Songs add an undeniable humanness to space stories.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    Mike, you’re on the fourth book in the series. You obviously believe in its potential. Tell us where and how you’re marketing it. I think we can all learn from you on that.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    Before the week turns over I want to say this: I’ve written a story about a has-been movie star mouse – for adults!

    My opinion about what’s going to find an audience is iffy at best.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for that, Mike, also to Victor for those references – all very useful. And lots of interesting questions there about the nature of aliens. Now that the Pentagon report has confirmed that there’s ‘something’ out there (do we all agree on that?), the answers to such questions acquire a new urgency, so I look forward to yours, notably what do they want? Surely they’ve figured out that we are beyond hope, so why are they still hanging around?
    My other query is the same as Mimi’s: must one follow a certain pattern in the hero / heroine’s journey? I suppose it depends on the amount of planning one feels comfortable with. Is there a happy medium between letting the story go where it will and cramming it into a framework?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know my first thought when I read about the Pentagon report? “Oh shit, this could make all my stories obsolete!” If there really are alien teenagers buzzing our warplanes.
      What do they want? That will have to be the topic of my next blog post.
      Re Mimi’s question: No, one needn’t follow a certain pattern. There’s a fear that if you don’t follow the prescribed pattern, nobody will buy your dang book. But it didn’t fit my story flow. If I tried to force it into that pattern, I’d just screw it up.
      So it was a great feeling to read what an “expert” says, and realize that it describes what I’m doing anyway. When experts agree with me, I think they must be pretty smart.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Peter Thomson says:

    This led me to reflect, I’ve written three books (so far) – two where the MCs are women and one which alternates between a woman MC and male MCs. The women MCs make friends and solve their problems; the male MCs form alliances, over-reach and, well, it does not end well. At the time of writing it just flowed that way; now I’m feeling maybe I was guided by some unconscious archetype.

    Like

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