Can Heroes Be Written Using The Heroine’s Journey—and Vice Versa?
The mistake that Hollywood can and will make while attempting to write female-driven features is simply writing a hero with boobs-story where the screenwriter uses the applications of The Hero’s Journey and simply gender flips the character—essentially just writing she instead of he, and so forth, while retaining the overall stages of The Hero’s Journey. In essence, the screenwriter would be missing the point of writing a female-driven story if they choose to ignore the female elements of conflict that women are faced with.
Elements of The Hero’s Journey can certainly be utilized—and are ever-present—in The Heroine’s Journey, but what needs to always be included within the latter are forward-thinking answers to questions and conflicts that women face. Such things need to be addressed because that is where the conflict of such stories are set apart from a hero’s tale. Men and women deal with very different types of conflict and that has to be showcased within the confines of each of their types of journeys. Female characters can certainly have characteristics found within The Hero’s Journey, but it would be difficult to apply characteristics found within The Heroine’s Journey to a male character because they generally can’t and don’t relate.
Is The Heroine’s Journey the New Hero’s Journey?
The initial answer? It should be.
This is not to say that The Hero’s Journey should be pushed aside. There are many such stories to tell. However, as Hollywood is slowly getting the signal that audiences are responding to variations of The Heroine’s Journey, it would be wise—and righteous—for any and all screenwriters to seek out stories that feature strong female characters within that context.
Hollywood is looking for such stories. They are actively seeking out voices that can bring such stories to the forefront. And it doesn’t always have to be a female screenwriter that does so. In fact, since women account for just 15 percent of sector screenwriting employment and are outnumbered by more than three-to-one among screenwriters, according to an early summary of the 2014 Hollywood Writers Report, male screenwriters—the vast majority—should be the ones to lead the continued charge, then forcing Hollywood to adapt and accept female voices to drive that percentage up.
The wonderful aspect of The Heroine’s Journey over the more conventional Hero’s Journey is that it makes way for more supporting characters as well. Jyn had her Rogue One war mates in Rogue One. Katniss had her support team in The Hunger Games. Wonder Woman had Steve and their collected posse of supporting characters.
If a screenwriter is going to have a character undergo a journey, The Heroine’s Journey allows for more great characters ready and able to get into the mix, as opposed to The Hero’s Journey that often focuses solely on the hero himself.
The Key Is to Create the Ultimate Journey Hybrid
The truth is, whether you’re using The Hero’s Journey or The Heroine’s Journey as a launching pad for the structures and themes of your screenplay, there’s no set formula to follow. There is no right or wrong way to write any story as long as there is a great story to tell and a great character to follow through the journey of that story.
Adapt. Plain and simple.
I’m currently in the process of gender-switching a screenplay that Lionsgate previously picked up. That decision was made not to chase a trend, but to add depth to the concept and character. Women face more conflict than men, thus the screenplay benefits because as most should know, conflict is everything. Without conflict, there is no compelling and intriguing story to tell.
So as a screenwriter, if you’re looking for ways to shake things up and take what may be a more routine concept, story, or character, look no further than the gender of your lead or strong supporting character(s). What would happen if you flipped that gender?
We saw that happen with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Luke-type character from the original trilogy was replaced by Rey, a young woman. And that changed the character type for the better in many ways. Rey rejected Finn’s continued attempts to “protect” her while she was the one that was actually holding her own. More conflict. More depth. All because of the gender flip.
She still shared some elements of the classic The Hero’s Journey, all while handling the forward-thinking aspects of The Heroine’s Journey.
Whatever your situation may be, just know that we are at the dawn of an exciting time where a new array of characters and concepts centered around female characters is coming to light. Audiences have shown up for such films in droves. And when the audience comes, the powers that be in Hollywood and beyond take notice. MM
This post originally appeared on the blog ScreenCraft. ScreenCraft is dedicated to helping screenwriters and filmmakers succeed through educational events, screenwriting competitions and the annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship program, connecting screenwriters with agents, managers and Hollywood producers. Follow ScreenCraft on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.