Hero vs the Virgin: writerunboxed-1

January 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm 2 comments

this one compares the difference between the Hero and the Virgin journeys…

The Wonder of Archetypal Structure                      by Kim Hudson for writer unboxed


I remember my first day in film school when I learned about the Hero’s journey and felt like I had found my purpose in life.  I’m pretty sure there was music.  The twelve beats that describe the universal story went something like this:

The Hero lives in an Ordinary World until one day he receives a Call to Adventure. At first he Refuses the Call, because of the great danger, but after Meeting with the Guide, the Hero Crosses the First Threshold to a foreign land. Suddenly away from everything familiar, the Hero is Tested in his ability to survive. Clear in his purpose, he meets Allies who can help him and learns about his Enemy. The Allies make Preparations to enter the Enemy’s lair and increase their chances of success. The challenge is great and things go badly as the Hero faces near-death in a Crisis, but escapes with his life.  He is Rewarded with an advantage when next he faces the enemy (namely that he can face death and live). He takes the Road Back and meets the enemy in a Final Battle. The Hero defeats the enemy, and Returns with the Elixir that will keep the village safe.

Great movies like Alien, Matrix, Beverly Hills Cop and Unforgiven follow this structure.



Then I was told that all story from all time is a Hero’s journey.  My guts told me otherwise so I set out to find a pattern for a uniquely feminine journey.

Both involve the quest to stand as an individual.  The Hero does this by selflessly meeting the needs of the village and also challenging his fear of death and learning he can live away from the comforts of home.  The Virgin does things differently.  She takes up her personal power by looking inside herself and deciding who she is and what unique gift she has to bring to her community, despite what they have planned for her.  Stories like An Education, Shakespeare in Love, Billy Elliot, and Brokeback Mountain all follow this structure.  The thirteen repeated beats I found in Virgin stories are:

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.


It makes sense there are two stories because the human condition has two main drives: one away from fear and the other towards joy.  The Hero and the Virgin represent the two distinct journeys to take up personal power and stand as an individual using these drives.  The Hero learns to physically occupy a big territory without fear while the Virgin learns to own her own mind and be joyful.  And they are gender neutral.  Men and women can be Virgins and Heroes.

The two journeys require very different environments.  The Hero goes to a foreign land so he can prove he can live without the comforts of home.  He thrives on time pressure and a clearly defined goal.  His village is basically good and worth preserving while Evil is outside and needs to be destroyed.  He is about being rugged, brave and strong.

The Virgin stays in her community because these are the voices in her head that control her.  She is about looking inside herself and knowing who she is separate from her culture or duty.  The antagonist is often someone she loves and the Kingdom eventually changes to make space for her out of love.  The Virgin finds a Secret World because her growth thrives in timelessness and curiosity.  She is open to wherever being authentic takes her.  This usually takes the form of a creative, spiritual or sexual awakening.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

A NEW Structure – scriptshark guest blog Black Swan is a creepy Virgin story

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Frances Oles  |  January 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Have you seen Eastern Promises?

    • 2. thevirginspromise  |  January 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      No I haven’t, but I will. Thanks for the recommendation!


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The Virgin’s Promise

Writing Feminine Stories of Creative, spiritual and Sexual Awakening

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