A Tale of Three Journeys . . . or Who goes Where for the Why now?

Adron J. Smitley
5 min readJun 27, 2020

In her tasty little book for plotters, Story Structure Architect, Doctor of Philosophy Victoria Lynn Schmidt describes a plethora of journeys a protagonist can undertake for the sake of a good story, chief among them the classic Hero’s Journey, the Feminine Journey, and the Masculine Journey.

As to the classic Hero’s Journey, Chris Vogler interpreted the story model from Joseph Campbell’s book, A Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell’s book explores mythic heroes throughout numerous cultures, and Vogler compiled the structure of these myths into twelve steps in his own book, The Writer’s Journey.

You might be familiar with a guy named George Lucas who also used Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey story model to write Star Wars.

In the classic Hero’s Journey, the hero sets forth on adventure then eventually returns to the tribe, but their journey is not cyclical as there is no sense that the journey will continue after the hero returns since they’ve accomplished all they needed to and have helped the ‘tribe.’

HJ — ACT 1

1. Ordinary World: This is the Hero’s mundane world of everyday life to contrast the opposite world of their adventure to come.

2. Call to Adventure: The Hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure to undertake.

3. Refusal of the Call: Reluctant Heroes resist in a display of self-doubt and initial fear of the unknown, while Willing Heroes are stalled by detractors.

4. Meeting with the Mentor: The mentor prepares the Hero to face the unknown through sage advice or gifts or training or any combination thereof.

5. Crossing the First Threshold: The Hero commits to the adventure and enters the world of the story.

HJ — ACT 2

6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The Hero discovers new challenges and learns the rules of the road.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave: The Hero stands at the edge of a dangerous place, perhaps the Villain’s headquarters.

8. Supreme Ordeal: The Hero’s fortunes hit rock bottom . . . will they survive?

9. Reward: The Hero triumphs and takes possession of a ‘treasure.’

HJ — ACT 3

10. The Road Back: The Hero deals with the consequences of confronting dark forces.

11. Resurrection: Death and darkness get one last attempt at the Hero before being defeated.

12. Return with the Elixir: The Hero returns to the tribe with a treasure or lesson.

In the Feminine Journey, the heroine gathers the courage to face death, even if only symbolic, and endures the transformation toward being reborn as a complete being in charge of her own life. She questions authority then gains the courage to stand up for herself and finally embodies the willingness to go it alone and face her symbolic death. The Feminine Journey is cyclical in that there is a sense the journey may continue through another because she has gone through an inner process of change that can only be experienced directly, not shared.

FJ — ACT 1

1. Illusion of the Perfect World: The Heroine possesses a false sense of security and is trapped in a negative world that prevents her growth, so she avoids the reality of her situation by using a coping strategy.

2. Betrayal or Realization: Everything important to her is taken away and she is pushed to a fork in the road.

3. Awakening: She actively prepares for her journey and wants to reclaim her ‘power.’

FJ — ACT 2

4. Descent: Also known as Passing the Gates of Judgment, she faces one of the fears or obstacles and may want to turn back but can’t. Her weapons won’t work because they are useless here.

5. Eye of the Storm: She comes to terms with the ordeal she just faced and assumes her journey is over. Supporting characters may want her to return, but her journey is unfinished.

6. Death: All is lost. A total reversal happens. She faces her own death, or a symbolic one, and learns more about herself.

FJ — ACT 3

7. Support: She accepts her connection to the larger whole. Hopefully someone or something supports her now or she may not make it.

8. Moment of Truth: She has found her strength and goes for her goal with gusto because she’s awakened and views the whole world differently. She faces her worst fear and still remains compassionate and complete.

9. Full Circle: She returns to the perfect world to see how far she’s come, and may choose the next person to go on the descent now so this person can grow as she has.

In the Masculine Journey, the hero lives in his version of a perfect world with friends and enemies alike until he’s thrust into a situation and must make a decision — will he go inward or remain outwardly focused? Eventually he must choose which branching path to take (Awaken or Rebel) because both lead to different conclusions, with one leading him to a mini-Feminine Journey.

MJ — ACT 1

1. The Perfect World: The world seems full of opportunities for him, though he doesn’t know what he wants deep down inside.

2. Friends and Enemies: Friends help push him toward a challenge.

3. Preparing for the Journey: Unsure of what he wants deep down inside, he goes for an outwardly focused goal.

MJ — ACT 2

4. Small Success: A small taste of success gives him the desire to reach higher.

5. Invitations and Preparations: He’s invited to embark on the Feminine Journey toward awakening. If he says ‘no’ he is on the path to Rebellion and gathers his weapons together because he refuses to give up his ‘power.’ If he says ‘yes’ he is on the path of Awakening.

6. Trials: He faces obstacles. If he is Rebelling, he has a false sense of superiority. If he us Awakening, things seem to be falling apart for him. Either way, warnings and prophecies may surround him.

MJ — ACT 3

7. Death: All is lost. If he is Rebelling, he rages against death and fights his own transformation and change. If he is Awakening, he faces death and is humbled by it because all his tools are useless.

8. Awaken or Rebel: If he is Rebelling, he won’t face his flaws or face change; he has little character arc because nothing has changed for him. If he is Awakening, he faces himself and knows what he truly wants; he gives up some of his perceived ‘power’ in order to be successful, and is willing to help others.

9. Victory or Failure: Rebellion brings him down the path of failure. Awakening brings him victory and reward, if only internal.

**The biggest difference between the Feminine and Masculine Journeys is that the male hero usually is supported in his quest to leave the ‘tribe’ and seek his goal whereas the female heroine usually is not. But don’t restrict your thinking to terms of gender, because even though traditionally the Feminine Journey is undertaken predominately by females and the Masculine Journey predominately by males, either gender can undertake either journey.

Happy writing!


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Adron J. Smitley

Blog for writers on everything plot, character, and story structure architecture at: adronjsmitley.blogspot.com