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The Heroine's Journey by Gail Carriger - #GiftsForWriters


(Shhh! While your favourite writer is still distracted by NaNoWriMo, now is the ideal time to sneak in and purchase them a gift or two. This one is sure to be a hit if it finds its way under the tree...)

The Heroine's Journey by Gail Carriger is a game changer for genre fiction. Using dozens of examples from books and movies, Ms Carriger carefully and convincingly divides these into two distinct story camps based on the character arc of their protagonists: the lone wolf and the team player. Until quite recently, tales headed by a team player (a.k.a., "The Heroine's Journey", which includes male protagonists like Harry Potter) have been roundly ridiculed and dismissed as only suitable for sweet and amusing genres such as romantic-comedy and cosy mysteries. The Hero's Journey (the lone wolf) is the story that is taken more seriously and which attracts big Hollywood budgets. 

 But - and it's a big 'but' - the type of story you write, or journey you take your readers on, must depend on what your reader wants from you: excitement, thrills, danger, action (Hero's Journey), or comfort, connection, friendship, and team work (Heroine's). Though Ms Carriger makes a very strong case for choosing The Heroine's Journey, she skillfully guides you towards the best choice to suit the type of book you want to write to satisfy the type of readers you want to serve, so that you never miss the mark again. 

"...the emphasis on solitary action, self-sacrifice, and never asking for help in the Hero's Journey is damaging to modern society...The myth of the rugged individual has been canonized as a particularly American trait for centuries, in a manner that makes going it alone and doing it yourself something glorious and desirable. This has led us to a place where asking for help, particularly if you are male, is seen as weak or feminine. Simultaneously this correlates weak with feminine, and strength with isolation. We are collectively dealing with the consequences of having created a space where males are vilified for wanting to care for others - for seeking connection through communication, touch, or emotional resonance." - Gail Carriger, The Heroine's Journey

Ms Carriger invites writers to help usher in a new narrative, where the ability to identify and make use of the differing skills of various members of a team is the ultimate definition of "strong leadership"; where friendship and loyalty are revered over stoicism and brute muscle; and where loneliness is no longer a default endgame for the hero or heroine who has worked so hard to make the world a better place. This doesn't mean we toss out the Hero's Journey and never pen another action-spy-thriller; far from it: if this is our chosen genre, we can give it depth, make it even richer and more exciting, with a little help from the team.


Review posted by Elle Carter Neal


  1. Thanks for the introduction to this book, Elle. What an interesting concept about the heroine, and I'm going to explore that more.

  2. What a great comparison of the lone wolf and the team player! This is an excellent post, Elle. We have so much to draw from it, so many paths we can take with our characters and protagonists. Definitely a keeper.

  3. I like that idea of a team of heroes working together. That's kind of what Donnell Bell does in Black Pearl, and she does it very well using two men and a woman in various branches of law enforcement. It was nice to see a team that wasn't at each other's throats throughout the novel.

  4. I just finished it and loved the book. Now back to writing my heroine's journey!


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