Saturday, June 11, 2011

WisCon Panel: Beyond the Hero’s Journey

(Here's the final set of panel notes I'll post.)

The hero’s journey is still popular, but does it apply to women?

Are there other useful tropes for protagonists?

Good vs. evil is simplistic

Hero’s journey in a nutshell—hero grows up with foster parents, is summoned by a wizard and told he has a great destiny, has several adventures before facing down some of his own evils (the Shadow), defeats the evil and becomes the next ruler

Readers know what the rules are, so you can experiment with setting or character

Are audiences ready to accept other types of narrative?

Alternate journey—woman lets in evil into a harmonious society, her husband must stay at home and rebuild while the woman goes off on a redemptive journey

Some readers want something familiar to read when they want to relax

Hero’s journey doesn’t just entertain; supposed to be a metaphor for growing up (you have to go down into the darkness and come out the other side)

Hero’s journeys are sometimes about collecting plot coupons

Hero sometimes emerges from darkness to find out he has changed and doesn’t fit into his society

About 80% of fantasy fits this trope

Some readers love to be challenged, but they don’t like to be surprised

Need to prepare readers ahead of time so they know what to expect

What are examples of stories that did something different with the hero’s journey

Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Monoke, etc. Mizusaki (the target audience in Japan are boys who want to be saved by their mothers; the female character is a mother figure)

What is the structure of the heroic tale and how does it vary from culture to culture?

A Song of Ice and Fire series (multiple hero’s journeys)

Deepening characterization may change who’s the hero and who’s the villain

Always Coming Home has many layers and is nonlinear

Finnovar Tapestry – several different characters

The Heroine’s Journey

Woman may be rescuing a family member or other beloved person

Instead of getting magic sword or other phallic objects, women get objects of perception, distance weapons, magic bags/clothing/jewelry (less violent), domestic implements

Modern boys still want swords, but modern girls don’t want domestic magic

Female often gets a mean mentor (wicked stepmother, witch); the fairy godmother is a rarity

Heroine’s boyfriend is different

Heroine discovers the all-powerful father figure isn’t so powerful

Disney movies are the heroine’s journey lite

The heroine faces a destroyer of children

Woman is an agent of order (Mary Poppins)

Toads and Diamonds explores what happens when two girls get different gifts

Males return back home to rule; women marry when they reach their destination

The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown—uncomfortable comfort

Motif of inheritance leans toward a patricharchal system

New trope is inventor girls, especially in steampunk

Another trope is a gift that is actually a curse

Kushiel—heroine’s journey

Dark Jewels trilogy

Mist of Avalon

Is the heroine an exceptional woman, or are there other strong women in the story?

If there are two women, they may have different strengths

Rosemary Kirsten

Need to look beyond the idea of story, or what we expect a story to be (different cultures may have different forms for stories)

Like Water for Chocolate—magical realism

Girl stories often involve the next generation (family sagas)

What is the relationship of the hero to the community? In general, the hero protects and helps the community. In return, the community may help the character, or sometimes hates the hero.

In some stories, the antagonist is redeemed instead of vanquished


Look for translated stories that don’t come out of the Eurocentric tradition (

Woman as Other-directed

1 comment:

L.G.Smith said...

Great list. Thanks for sharing your notes.

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