August 21st, 2015

Using The Heroine’s Journey for Inner Conflict

Laurie Schnebly Campbell

EVERY story is an adventure. We already know these characters will come face-to-face with all kinds of excitement, challenge and danger–whether that danger involves dastardly villains or a reluctance to fall in love.

A lot of readers are thrilled when a story’s main adventure involves bullets, pirates, dragons or floods. Sometimes all of ‘em combined, plus more!

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Photo Credit:

There are plenty of stories for those readers to enjoy.

But what about the readers who prefer excitement on a more internal, emotional level? How can we satisfy THEM?

Here’s where The Heroine’s Journey comes in handy.

We all know about The Hero’s Journey, which Christopher Vogler adapted from Joseph Campbell’s discovery of the twelve steps a hero goes through on his way from Accepting The Quest to Returning With The Elixir.

Those steps involve all kinds of external conflict, and occasionally there might even be a bit of internal conflict along the way.

The hero isn’t JUST coping with bullets-pirates-dragons-floods…sometimes he’s also coping with self-doubt or fearing cowardice or concerned about his family while he’s busy dodging bullets, fighting pirates, lassoing dragons and swimming through floods.


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Then there are the other characters.

The ones who don’t come up against such problems. Their external challenges are quieter. Every bit as dramatic and intense, but accompanied by the music of a solo saxophone rather than a chorus of trumpets and drums.

* Maybe their problem is the inability to say no to a loved one.

* Or the discovery that the life they’ve been trained for isn’t what they truly want.

* Or the choice between their love and their dream.

Theirs are the stories that follow The Heroine’s Journey.

The journey can apply to men as well as women, but it’s easier to distinguish Chris Vogler’s twelve steps from Kim Hudson’s thirteen steps by assigning each journey to a different gender.

The Virgins Promise

Kim Hudson’s book, The Virgin’s Promise, goes into fascinating detail on how a character who’s found a somewhat secure niche in society — at the expense of her own individuality — comes up against all kinds of challenges if she ever tries to become the person she’s fully meant to be.

This rings true for a lot of heroines. And sometimes even for those of us who write their stories.

We’ve been through experiences like Paying The Price of Conformity, realizing we No Longer Fit in a comfortable-but-confining world, giving up What Keeps us Stuck, and more. It can be a lifelong process. But in a book, it’s a lot more exciting to show the entire process taking place in just those pages between Chapter One and The End.

 The question is, how do we keep it exciting?

Most readers (and writers) have faced these same challenges in real life, even though they don’t tend to view themselves as heroic characters. Yet every time we question our boundaries, every time we consider changing a habit that no longer fills its original purpose, every time we stand up for something we believe in, we’re taking the same 13 steps as those heroic characters who achieve — and deserve — a triumphant ending.

Even so, somehow we tend to think of our own life as “not very exciting” — unless the challenges we face involve bullets, pirates, dragons and floods. That’s why a lot of writers add those elements to their books.

With The Heroine’s Journey, though, there’s no real need for such external dangers.

There’s already a whole world of adventure in seeing her…

* Move from dormancy to risk.

* Sample an unrealized dream in secret.

* Balance her old and new worlds.

* Face the chaos that comes from change.

* Confront the ultimate challenge, and bring new light to the world.

You’ve done that yourself. You’ve taken on a challenge which people close to you viewed as questionable. They doubted your ability, your commitment, your thinking, and often made you doubt it as well. But you persisted, and you emerged triumphant.

Your more-than-adventurous heroine can, too.

Which leads to a prize-drawing question:

To inspire all of us creating memorable heroines, who face the kind of challenges that affect people like ourselves, could you describe a time when you went beyond the limits set by your world? If you’d rather I DIDN’T quote you, please mention that…but somebody who comments will win free registration to my September class on The Hero’s Journey, For Heroines!


LaurieLaurie Schnebly Campbell always wondered what was wrong with her, not really GETTING the Hero’s Journey, until she discovered its feminine counterpart. Then she got excited — not only by the premise, but also by the chance to create a brand new class for She can’t wait to see who else shares her enthusiasm for characters making discoveries within themselves, as well as within the world…no matter what their gender.

100 comments to Using The Heroine’s Journey for Inner Conflict

  • MacKenzie Willman

    I went beyond the limits set by the world of, “Those with mental illness are a danger to themselves and others, and will never amount to anything,” when I embraced the diagnosis; sought and worked my treatment plans, and am now beginning my 8th year in recovery.

    I went beyond the limits set when, I refused to lie down under a rock and die, rather than talk about mental illness. I will speak out: Anyone; Anywhere; Any time.

    And yes, you may quote anything you think will help someone else.

    In His Name,

    MacKenzie Raye Willman

    • MacKenzie, talk about an inspiring story — good for you on not only going beyond the limits in how you handled your diagnosis & treatment & recovery, but also on how you’re consistently speaking out and giving glory to God!

  • What first comes to mind is when I filed for divorce, even after my family and my pastor told me, “you can’t do that” when I asked their advice. I had four little children, ages 2,4,7,9 and only had a high school education. That was 40 years ago. And I made it.

  • I am thinking of my three granddaughters who have just graduated from high school. I am imagining how their heroine’s journey might play out. Oh yes, I hope they will make it and I might send heroines like them on their could-be journeys in books I will write.

    • Congratulations to your granddaughters (and their family) on having reached what might be one of the biggest turning points of their lives. And I bet they’ll be honored if they inspire a book at some point down the road. 🙂

  • Laurie, as always, an excellent post that gets me thinking not only about my writing but also about life. In a nutshell? Teenage girls. What I see in my daughter’s and her friends’ lives are all these ridiculous societal pressures to conform. I’m constantly encouraging my daughter to figure out who she’s meant to be by *doing*, but these pressures are still focused on appearance. And even rebellion entails conforming to a smaller group’s standards of appearance.

    • Sher, what a great point about how rebellion ALSO involves conforming…that sure makes it tough for someone who wants to resist any demands. Matter of fact, I’m thinking you’ve worked that Life Lesson into some of your books, haven’t you?

  • I think one of the biggest challenges people face is letting go of relationships — with friends, lovers, and sometimes even family — that no longer work. That’s especially hard for women, it seems. Regardless how much we realize, intellectually, that we need to get away from whatever is poisoning our lives, letting go emotionally is terribly difficult. I’ll bet that’s one of Hudson’s thirteen steps.

    I’ll also bet your class will be a humdinger, judging by past experience. 🙂

    • Wow, Kathleen, you’re right that letting go of relationships seems to be harder for women. (Maybe because of that stress-response tend-and-befriend thing?) And while it’s not called out as such, I can sure see it fitting into the 13 steps of what I’d love to now describe as a “humdinger” class.

  • carrienichols

    Fascinating post, Laurie! And so timely because my heroine is currently on a journey of her own. She has always been the “good girl” doing what was expected of her, but she sees now how that is influencing her own daughter. So her journey in the story will be to do what is best for her even if it’s not what others want.

    Your new class sounds awesome. I have learned something valuable from all of your classes.

    • Oh, Carrie, it sounds like your current heroine IS on a classic 13-step journey — what a lovely motivation for her to shift that journey, seeing how the old way of being influences her daughter. And I’m so glad you’ve found the classes useful; that’s nice to know!

  • morgynstarz

    Major gut twist. A heroine who knows the guy she loves is in love with someone else and her. What does she do, follow her heart or her brains?

    My WIP has a heroine who starts thinking she is ‘other’ in her society and is treated poorly. She still seeks to follow a path that could end up with her dead as she seeks validation and inclusion. Stupid or validating?

    I am totally checking out Kim’s book! What a fascinating post, Laurie. I’ve studied the Hero’s Journey and ended turning my back on it because it does NOT follow a woman’s life path. Your class sounds very exciting. (Silly, jumping up & down, hoping!)

    • Morgyn, isn’t it fun when you spot something that shoots of jumping-up-and-down sparks of hope? I love the parallel doubts you’ve built in already, with the heart / brains and stupid / validating choices…this sounds like a great Heroine’s Journey story. 🙂

  • I have heard a lot about the heroine’s journey and how it differs from the Hero’s but this was an excellent explanation of how it differs. Thank you!! I think women do go through challenges that may be different in their lives and its often more of an internal kind of growth than an external path. Thank you for sharing!

    • Talk about a great summary, Megan — “often more an internal kind of growth than an external path” says it beautifully! Which doesn’t mean there can’t ALSO be external conflict, but it’s the internal that gives a story that extra resonance.

  • Love this post, Laurie, and the comments all seem to have a similar theme – isn’t it funny how we all thought, back in the 70’s that the women’s rights movement would solve all our problems as women?

    Only to find that many of the problems are ingrained in us – as others pointed out, peer pressure, societal pressure, not being able to let go of toxic relationships.

    As my MIL used to say, ‘Too soon old, too late smart.”

    • Laura, I just read a great book by Anna Quindlen on that very thing — how she’s watching her daughter go through the same kind of ingrained struggles she did. Which is one of the few times I’ve been grateful for NOT having a daughter as well as a son…

    • Laura – I think we’ve made our situation worse. We have set the stage we’ll do all of the “traditional women’s” roles AND we have to do more – work like a man. So we have to do double duty. And, when you split attention, I don’t think you do any of it as well. So then we focus – on work or family – and we’re damned for it. So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Hopefully we can find a balance someday.

      • You’re right, Megan! I have hope though, looking at my daughter and other’s marriages. The next generation is expecting more from the men around the house, and in raising the children.

        Maybe there’s balance somewhere down the road!

  • Wonderful post as usual, Laurie. I think women everywhere have to go that extra mile, make that extra effort to break down barriers set by the world around her. Your post brings to mind the story of a young Indian girl who faced just such a challenge: she was attacked in a train in Mumbai and her attacker threw her out of the running train when she resisted him. Both her legs had to be amputated, killing her dream of climbing the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. But the girl wouldn’t let her dreams die. She became the first amputee in the world to climb Mount Everest (you can check out her story on the Net. Her name is Arunima Sinha). Her journey is inspiring at so many levels, it gives me goosebumps!

  • Heather Jackson

    My biggest challenge to date is dealing with my son’s disabilities. He has high-functioning autism and Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes. When he was first diagnosed (first autism and 6 months later diabetes), I was completely overwhelmed and didn’t think I’d be able to cope. I also felt horribly guilty because I couldn’t afford to get him the treatment I knew he needed. I threw myself into doing everything I could do and trusting God to do the rest. I’m happy to say that my son went from only moderately functioning and barely verbal to high functioning and extremely verbal. It was a miraculous transformation. We still have difficulties, some new and some old, but the years have taught me that I CAN do this even when the obstacles seem insurmountable.

    • Oh, Heather, I’m AWED by what you’ve survived! I got Type 1 as a 3-year-old and have always said it was much harder on my mom than on me…mothers of Type 1 kids have an enormously tough job, and when you throw in autism on top of that it’s mind boggling. Good for you on making it through!

  • Vicki

    First I have to say, “Ooooh! Storm Troopers!”

    Since I can’t think of any major life changing events in my life, I’ll mention the heroine in my current WIP. Amidst laser cannons, blasters, and interplanetary warfare, my heroine has to choose between love and duty. Raised from birth with the knowledge she will eventually rule her planet, falling in love with an offworlder shakes her universe. How can she choose between love and duty?

    • Vicki, I’m so glad you liked the storm troopers — the original title was “More Than Adventure” and they seemed like the perfect illustration! And your heroine is definitely in such a mode…added to the conflict of (ulp) LOVE?

    • Fae Rowen

      Ah, my kind of book, Vicki! As the resident SFR writers here at WITS, I’m so happy when we get a comment from a reader who sees how everything translates into our “other” worlds.

  • This is going to sound silly as hell, but when I moved away from home and set up my own place. I was born to older generation parents; and I grew up with older values. Family is the most important (after God) and you don’t just move out and live alone (or definitely don’t live with someone you’re married to). Heck, my own sister didn’t feel she could leave, so she married in order to leave the house. But I didn’t want to go to that extreme. *LOL*

    Also as the youngest…and having the older parents and being a caregiver to the one remaining parent I had left, I felt such horrible guilt and ungratefulness to leave him and live by myself. I just remember going through it was such an emotional upheaval that it really did feel like a hero’s journey moment, where there is a point of no return, where you’re excited, and then there is a set back and everything is dark (i.e. the first night alone in the apartment–and I essentially had no TV, nothing to do, and the apartment was LONELY), and then facing the chaos of my decision (how do I rebalance my life and still be a caregiver) and going forward.

    • What a wonderful, vivid memory of that step in your heroine’s journey! (Er, in YOUR journey.) With the pressure-to-conform coming from both outside and inside, it’s all the more impressive you managed to keep going forward. 🙂

  • Laurie D

    Like many folks, I’ve had my ups and downs. Some struggles professionally, a female engineer in a male dominated field. My biggest challenge came 5 years ago. I got sick and both hands and feet had to be amputated. Of course it has been a hard fight to regain my independence, I’ve found support from both friends, family and strangers I meet everyday. Those reaching out has been my inspiration. I’ve also managed to keep my goals and dreams and work toward them.

    • Laurie, here’s a perfect example of conflict from very different sources — and the fact that you’ve found support not only from family & friends but also from strangers is fabulous! I’d be willing to bet you’ve BEEN as much inspiration to others as you’ve gotten from them…although maybe not all those pesky male engineers.

  • Great post, Laurie. Twenty years ago, in my mid-twenties, I quit my secure, well-paying job and with nothing more than a wad of savings and a pack on my back I set off to explore the world. My friends and family were flabbergasted. I was the conservative, play-it-safe, good girl homebody and the general consensus was that I’d be back home in little Ol’ New Zealand within three months. Part of me thought they were probably right but another part of me wanted to prove them (and myself) wrong. I was all at once excited and terrified to be leaving the only home and country I’d ever known, but I knew if I wanted to experience this personal journey of challenge, growth and adventure, I would have to feel the fear and do it anyway. And I never looked back. I backpacked around Europe, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and the Greek Islands before settling in London where I landed an awesome job and stayed for three and a half years. That time abroad was not only a physical journey for me, but a mental and emotional one. I pushed my own boundaries and challenged my beliefs (and others’ beliefs) about who I am and what I’m capable of. Now, when I write, I try to imbue my fictional heroines with the same determination and “feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway” attitude!

    • Talk about a great example of challenging not only others’ beliefs, but also your own — that’s a wonderful story! Especially the part about wanting to prove them (and yourself) wrong, and doing it in spite of the fear. I can see the book taking shape already…

  • This is a great post, Laurie – quite validating because it reminds us that we don’t need to be wielding swords to be ‘heroic”.

    One of the most difficult things for me to do was learn how to be my child’s hero by breaking out of my comfort zone and fighting for her when necessary. I’m a peacekeeper so I steer clear of conflict when I can, but threaten my kid or make her feel insecure or worried, and steering clear is no longer an option. It was never anything big – fortunately – but standing up for a young one to their teachers, other parents, in-laws, etc. wasn’t (isn’t) easy, yet it’s something we, as parents, have to do. I was pushed well out of my comfort zone but managed to cover my discomfort so my daughter wouldn’t see that hesitation. I wanted to teach her that it’s okay to defend yourself. I did teach her, and I taught myself as well. It felt kinda good. 🙂 Though, to be clear, I still don’t go looking for conflict.

    • Oh, Debbie, I love the idea of teaching yourself at the same time as your child. Even though you don’t go looking for conflict, it’s nice to know that a peacekeeper can still meet it head-on when necessary!

  • I’m an abuse survivor. All my stories incorporate the battle of overcoming unhealthy boundaries and perspectives. Sometimes, the biggest fight of the day is quieting the negative tape in my head, the one that makes it a struggle to crawl out of bed let alone accomplish anything.

    • Judy, that’s a VERY vivid struggle — quieting a negative tape can be every bit as hard (or maybe harder) than climbing Mt. Everest, and there’s rarely a cheering crowd which celebrates the eventual triumph. At least not that we can see here on earth…

    • Judy, as one who’s been there too, your mention of boundaries is so critical – because if we don’t get better at those, we’re likely to end up in bad places again, right?

      It’s been a lifelong struggle for me, too. Hang in – we CAN continue to take baby steps!

    • Judy, boundaries are so hard, especially if you grew up with boundaries that were flawed. Good on you for keeping up with the struggle. It’s hard, but it’s worth it to not be eaten alive by life.

  • I had two book deadlines when my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. I look back and honestly don’t know how I managed to write those books while spending days at the hospital. With glioblastoma we were told up front that no one survives, but I was sure he would. When he didn’t, I lost my ability to write. My thoughts wouldn’t connect. I was sure I’d never write another book. It took eighteen months and encouragement from an editor I love and respect. I don’t know if you ever get past losing someone you love, but I do know you can go on with life. Laurie, this is a tough assignment–talking about the hard times.

  • This might sound simple compared to the amazing examples already posted, but I stepped out of my comfort zone this summer and took a vacation by myself to New York City where I attended my first ever Romance Writers of America conference. I met amazing writers, saw an incredible city, oogled National Landmarks, and ate sumptuous food. I’ve wanted to do that trip since I was seventeen years old, and I finally found the courage to just go.

    It was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

    • Wouldn’t that be a great slogan? Like “Just do it,” “Just Go” sums up this fabulous vision of courage well rewarded — and how COOL that your first out-of-the-comfort-zone vacation was in New York City with a bunch of other writers. 🙂

    • Fae Rowen

      I wish I had met you at conference, Paula! I’m so glad you took the leap and enjoyed the whole conference experience in NYC. Now, about that sumptuous food…

  • Lindsay

    Wow, this post really resonates with me for a number of my heroines. As well, the examples shared are so inspiring, and are such wonderful representations of strength. I was having trouble thinking of an example myself, but perhaps that’s because this kind of change (learning not to care as much about the opinions of others, for example) can happen over a longer period of time instead of being identifiable as one distinct moment For me, when I was a teenager, I tended to be a chameleon and changed my interests based on those around me. By the end of my university years, I’d gotten over that. But it was a slow process.

    • Lindsay, you have a very good point about change happening over a longer period of time — that’s probably the case far more often in real life, when a heroine doesn’t need to entertain readers by getting through the whole thing in 250 pages. Lucky for us we can HAVE that time, isn’t it?

  • Would it count as courage to stretch the truth in a job interview? I answered yes when asked if I would start a European-style farmers market in the city. Because my mother grew up on a farm in rural Alabama. Why not? I was that desperate to leave the job I already had. The farmers market turned out to be an incredible experience–recruiting farmers, studying street markets, purchasing mass quantities of market umbrellas, getting city council approval, putting together the promo materials (the part I knew how to do), hiring street performers, supervising a “staff” of community service workers sentenced to do their time with me…. Yeah. All that and more. In six weeks. A lot of action and a lot of growth came from that yes. The first market day, produce sold out in two hours. I’m long gone from the scene, but the market is thriving 25 years later. I came out of it more confident and more persistent. As much of a beating as I’ve taken from writing, I believe. And I would love to take your class!

  • Well, heck, you WERE telling the truth — because you did start a wonderful farmers market! And it’s great to have that experience of “I wasn’t sure I could do it but I did it” in mind when confronting other challenges…yep, like writing. 🙂

  • Janet Kerr

    My biggest challenge is my husband died. I survived. And, I am in a wheelchair. My journey, my dream, changed in an instant but my interest in writing is still strong and pointing new directiions.
    Please enter me in your draw.

    • Jan, talk about a major challenge! Both emotional and physical, you’ve been hit with a lot — which makes it all the more uplifting that you have an interest in writing, because that’s often one of the few things that transcends big life changes.

  • Fae Rowen

    It’s so nice to have you back, Laurie. This post allows me to think about how writing a hero is different than writing a heroine. It’s not something I’ve ever considered before, but now I recall how in my first book, that lives happily under the bed, my critique partners kept saying things like, “She asks like a man. Doesn’t she have feelings?” Ha!

    • Ah, the under-the-bed book… I like the theory that men and women range across some pretty wide continuums, and can easily slide into one another’s territory, but when you average up the Typical Female Responses and Typical Male Responses, there’s quite a bit of difference. 🙂

  • Hi Laurie,

    Heroes and heroines are so much alike, but they differ too. I think those differences are major because it’s always been, still is, and will ever be a “Man’s World.” Mostly because of physical strength…

    Heroines sometimes have an edge in female “softness” that most males cannot achieve. A iron will, a strong purpose, and love for someone or something can and does make make her formidable as all heck.

    I’m already signed up and waiting for class to start.

    • Isn’t it intriguing to wonder about whether, as physical strength becomes less of an issue with the growth of technology, there’ll be a change in the “man’s world” concept? Although I remember hearing way-back-when that NO group has ever said to another group, “Okay, we’ve been in charge long enough; now it’s your turn.” (And I’m glad you’ll be in the class!)

  • When my daughter became depressed then attempted suicide three times, I discovered an inner strength I had no idea I had inside me. If somebody had asked me how to deal with such a situation, I would have said I had no idea and hoped never to encounter such a scenario. Well, this was a battle I couldn’t “pick” because it hit me in the face with full force and I had no choice whether to deal with it or not. Helping her through those difficult times seemed an insurmountable endeavor; but I did it and feel stronger for it. I wish it had never happened but life comes out of nowhere sometimes and the choice is often not ours.

    • Patti, you’re so right about how we don’t always get to pick the battle — I suppose in theory someone could choose to ignore their child’s illness, and a few people probably have, but it’s a hard situation to imagine. Glad you and she both came through!

    • Oh Patti. I’m so sorry. Isn’t it amazing how being a mother makes you dive into waters you’d NEVER go in, on your own? Hugs.

  • Hi Laurie,
    As usual, you’ve left us filled with motivation and inspiration, you’re the best!
    My journey hasn’t been as harsh as some of the other amazingly strong women posting today. I overcame my fear of failure a couple of times, first by buying a restaurant and learning hands on how hard it is to make a success of it, but we did! I learned to cook, do book-keeping, manage staff, handle the government (gulp), and many more firsts that pulled me out of my comfort zone.
    Then my daughter decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a marine biologist and enrolled in university. We were proud, scared, worried, a whole host of emotions: you want your children to grow, but it’s hard to let them go.
    She had a five year old son and couldn’t find childcare so we made the call to move nearer to help. Sold the restaurant and our house and followed our girl.
    After the dust settled I took up a dream of my own, writing. Thanks to all the wonderful people in the RWA and teachers like Laurie I’ve accomplished my goal and published three books so far!
    My journey has been a quiet one, but the sense of pride I have for my daughter and myself shouts from the rooftops.
    Jacquie Biggar

    • Oh, Jacquie, the fact that your journey hasn’t been as harsh doesn’t mean it’s not inspiring — the whole idea of turning everyday women into heroines celebrates overcoming challenges which would never make the headlines, but which provide all KINDS of struggle & growth in real life. 🙂

  • Interesting concepts and interesting posts. I like The Hero’s Journey and don’t see it as particularly masculine or feminine.
    I was raised in the world of “help wanted-male, help wanted-female” newspaper ads when men and women were given separate and unequal job applications and a standard job interview question for women was “what contraceptive method are you using.” Loving math & entering a male only occupation, hardened my attitude about male/female roles.
    Since I don’t read or write romances, I’ve ignored the entire concept of “Heroine’s Journey.” Perhaps it’s time I expand my horizons?

    • Carlene, you’re right that neither gender’s journey applies to just one! But romance isn’t even a factor in the Heroine’s Journey…or if it is, it’s sure not the main focus of the story.

      It would’ve worked equally well to call them the Red & Blue journeys, but since “Hero’s” got taken first and placed a bit more emphasis on external than internal challenges, then the one placing a bit more emphasis on internal automatically became “Heroine’s.” Go figure.

      • I’m glad you said that because my protagonist is a teenage boy. We all know from our own teen years that teenagers grow as much internally and externally. I hadn’t known how to balance them, now I’m going to check out the ‘heroine’s’ journey.

        • Absolutely! And in fact, the book I’m using for The Heroine’s Journey is actually called The Virgin’s Promise, because it works for ANYONE who isn’t necessarily yet fully experienced in the world. Which, regardless of virginity, is certainly true of most teenagers…boys and girls alike.

  • Wow, what a post and what a set of replies. I am amazed; never seen anything like it. Congratulations, Laurie. On my part, I can really relate to Ms Colley’s story. I left home at 17 and moved into the dorm at Cal State Long Beach. Not really understanding the schedule, i moved in a week before anything — like classes — started. No cafeteria, no roommate, nobody else living there. And what I remember is adventure. Walking around the campus, walking down Bellflower Blvd. to a Bob’s Big Boy. And Buzzkill, the novella I’m finishing, has a heroine. I like her a lot. Thanks for a great post.

    • Talk about a vivid memory — that sense of embarking on a new life in a foreign world is SUCH great material for a book. Seems like most of us want to do that at some point, and yet there’s no way of knowing whether the New World will be more exhilarating or frightening at first glance.

      “Adventure,” though, makes it sound like yours was exciting! (Gotta love Bob’s Big Boy; I worked there in college. 🙂 )

    • Thank you, James! I was much older than 17 when I finally left, but I did finally get into the adventure of the thing. And I definitely set up my TV and some NOISE for the apartment as soon as I could to not repeat the first night. Now you can’t pry me out of my apartment. *LOL* It’s sanctuary for art and relaxation.

  • Rather less dramatic than most of what I’ve just read here, but…

    About two years ago, my job was kind of… withering away. We’d moved from a classic html setup (where, basically, two of us edited all the webpages on the server) to a content management system (where most of the page content could be edited by selected users in various departments). This was not a bad thing in itself, but it meant that we were doing a lot less day-to-day editing. As a result, I was finding myself with a lot more free time than I was entirely comfortable with having on my job — but also with limited opportunities to start on projects, as I needed to remain available for whatever my boss managed to throw my way.

    It had been a gradual change, but it was starting to come to a head and I was starting to get pretty stressed out — pretty constantly stressed out — by it.

    And then one of our programmers left. That’s not my area and it’s very much not my skillset, but I was getting kind of desperate (as one does when one starts to feel that there isn’t actually enough work on one’s plate to justify one’s paycheck). So I asked his boss (we’re a small IT department) if there was anything that he’d been doing that I could step in and take over. I figured, at the absolute worst, this boss would remember that I’d offered to help smooth that particular transition. In the event, it turned out better than that: there was a fairly major piece of software that he’d been working with/on, and it was one that we were trying to make available to more departments. That meant setting them up on it (which would be mostly new to me) and training them on it and making them feel comfortable with it (which was right up my alley).

    I had to learn the whole thing essentially from scratch (fortunately, we had support contract with some very understanding techs), but I managed it. There are still things I have to learn, but I’m far enough along that about six months ago I started training somebody else to be my backup, so that we wouldn’t be left high and dry if I went out of town or got sick or whatever. I’m still working under my original boss, and I’m still doing website stuff, but now I’m also responsible for this other system, and I have a minion of my own at least some of the time.

    It throws me a little to think of that as a Heroine’s Journey, but it seems to fit the pattern pretty well.

  • Way back when, I was a chemical engineer who desperately wanted to break into the world of soft-skills training (all those Human Resources courses on communication and interpersonal skills). When I expressed my yearning to someone in HR, I was slammed. How could ANY engineer even think they could make such a move?! Everyone knows engineers are completely inept at anything involving other people. Stick to the science. Leave the people skills to the experts.Hmphf! I persisted on my own, snuck into training through a side door (safety training), earned a Master’s Degree in Training & Organization Development, and earned a spot on a team delivering interpersonal skills training at chemical manufacturing plants. Turns out that wasn’t my calling after all, but that’s a whole other story …

    • Oh, Andi, that’s a great story! With all kinds of derring-do, too; it’s easy to picture you sneaking through the system and taking advantage of loopholes here and there to get around the pointless barriers…doesn’t that sound like a screenplay just WAITING to happen?

  • Michael, that’s another good case for calling them Red & Blue Journeys instead of Hero’s & Heroine’s — you hit the classic steps of entering an unfamiliar world while still holding onto the known one, which didn’t give you much opportunity to actualize your best self, and finding your best self in that new world actually made life better for others as well.

    Which definitely qualifies as a triumphant ending for any heroine OR hero!

  • All these stories are amazing. It’s incredibly uplifting to read all these stories of personal triumph and growth.

  • As the old saying goes, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ and you definitely cannot judge people by their appearances. I suppose that is why I enjoy reading so much is that I discover what’s under the surface – so to speak. Reading the responses here, is truly inspiring.

    • Janna, isn’t it amazing to find the same inspirational courage we admire in fictional characters right here in real-life people?

      Speaking of memorable characters, your name reminds me of the first line in Penmarric featuring a first-person narration by the hero: “I was ten years old the first time I saw the Inheritance and twenty years old the first time I saw Janna Roslyn, but my reaction to both was identical: I wanted them.” I was hooked!

  • Janet Ch.

    I was 21, I and had ended my engagement with a boyfriend of 4 years who was also my ballroom dancing partner. As my social life had completely revolved around him and the dance school we attended, I suddenly had no where to go and no one to go with.( I could no longer go to dance classes as everyone else was paired up.)

    Then I saw an advert in the local paper recruiting new members for the young adult section of the political party I supported. The group sounded fun and interesting, but being the shy type I felt I couldn’t possibly go on my own–I just didn’t have the confidence. But in the end I had a couple of glasses of wine (I didn’t normally drink!) stepped out of my comfort zone and made myself go–alone. That first night I made some new female friends and at a later meeting met the lovely, outgoing man who became my husband. If I hadn’t pushed myself beyond the limits of my personality and given in to the temptation to stay at home, my life wouldn’t have turned out anywhere near as happily.

    • Oh, Janet, what a wonderful way to be rewarded for a courageous decision — no wonder you became a romance writer! Next time I’m trying to work up the social courage to do something that feels intimidating, I’m going to remember your story.

    • Janet – how cool! You went out and MADE your own HEA!


    I can’t think of a better way to close — although I’ll check for posts throughout the weekend, and can’t wait to see who wins the free class! — than quoting Angela Bissell, who’s at a romance writers’ conference in Australia and reported:

    “I’m sitting here in my hotel room in my PJ’s sipping a cup of tea (woke at 5am and couldn’t sleep) with my eyes misty and a smile on my dial because I’ve just finished reading all those AMAZING stories of strength and courage in the face of loss, challenge and adversity. It’s reminded me that EVERYONE has a backstory and a journey, something they’ve had to struggle with and overcome, and often we don’t talk about those things (and we especially don’t blow our own trumpets when it comes to our own fortitude and triumphs) when really we should because those are the things that make us realise that ordinary, everyday people are in fact extraordinary.”

    Aren’t we, though?!

    Laurie, wishing everyone a wonderful weekend with or without the trumpets

  • What a great and thought provoking post. I do think we women tend to put everyone else’s needs before our own and it’s a deeper internal struggle that we tend to face when pursuing our dreams especially when it’s in such a subjective field. My hardest thing to do was to learn to say no and put value in my work. Sometimes I struggle to carve out time to pursue my own dreams and leave the guilt behind. I have a little sign that says “no is a complete sentence it does not need explanation”

    Thanks for giving us all a great post! Hope everyone has a great weekend

  • Varina M.

    When I applied to the U. of A., over two hours’ drive from home, my mother expressed a lot of apprehension and asked why I couldn’t go to ASU, maybe 20 minutes’ drive away. She seemed worried that I would be less safe and urged me to get a guide dog, not because a dog would help me get around better but for added security. I didn’t get a guide dog, because I didn’t want that responsibility. In the end, I made U. of A. seem a tad closer by applying to and getting acceptance from a university in Texas, and then I went to U. of A. Yes, I met some strange people on and off campus who made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but the scariest encounter I’ve had with a stranger occurred a few months after I came home from college for the last time and was walking just two blocks from home. I’m glad you’re teaching this class again. I read Vogler’s book on the hero’s journey, and while I picked up one interesting, new-to-me idea, the seeming adversary who can turn into an ally, I had a hard time adapting the hero’s journey, which seemed more suited to adventure stories than ones centered on relationships. I found more that fit my characters, both heroines and heros, in Kim Hudson’s path.

    • Varina, that’d make a fabulous grow-learn-change story for your mother! You were the one breaking barriers, but she was the one having to come to terms with the fact that her daughter IS capable of independence…which was probably a lot harder for her to realize than it was for you. 🙂

  • […] read with extreme interest a post on Writers in the Storm (my favourite writing blog) by Laurie Schnebly Campbell about the ‘heroine’s […]

  • What a great sign — everybody who has a hard time saying no needs one of those. And you’re right about the difficulty of a subjective field; people who can’t perceive anything except statistics often find it difficult to grasp the value of something that’s relatively immeasurable…like art.

  • My story is similar to yours Angela, being an Aussie who needed to travel and see the world. I settled in Scandinavia and returned 8 yrs later with my DH and mini-heroine.
    I am one of the lucky ones with a happy childhood and ditto current life. But I worked in medical health and marveled at how our patients and all of the above heroines, dealt with a life no-one should have to take on. Thank you for sharing, I salute you.

    Kim Hudson ran a workshop at the RWAustralia Conference, several years ago – it was a stunning revelation as I too couldn’t figure out in which hand to hold the sword, along with the baby, the marketing while pegging out the washing. Thank you Laurie for the chance to try some practical exercises with the knowledge from the book. See you in class.

    PS our latest RWA Conference in Melbourne finished yesterday, and I had the chance to do sessions with Margie Lawson and Angela Ackerman. So please everyone think of joining us sometime down the track, in NZ too. Wendy.

    • Wendy, how fun to see you on the class roster and then here as well — and, who knows, maybe one of these days at a southern-hemisphere conference or two!

  • Wonderful post.

    In 1988 I sold my Honda Civic for 400 dollars the day I flew to Italy on a one way ticket. The Honda was all I had. I bought a Vespa and have never returned to live in the US. Twenty years later, I had made a niche for myself and had bought all the wordly possessions I ever dreamed of in Italy, including a house on the Tuscan coast. In 2006 I sold it all and moved to Paris, to reconnect with a man I knew from before Italy. Moving to Paris was a bigger jump in the dark because I had a lot at stake and I wasn’t young. At first I hated Paris but now am happier than I ever could have been with all those lovely things in Florence.

    • Wow, Angie, talk about a story waiting to be written — I hope you’re doing that whenever you get a free minute. Although there probably aren’t a whole lot of those in Paris, are there? 🙂

  • Carolyn Toms-Neary

    Hi Laurie,

    My mother died of cancer when I was sixteen. To this day, just thinking about her causes me to blink back the tears. Being the youngest of five, I felt like the child left behind as my father struggled with his own grief and my siblings surrounded themselves with their spouses and children. I was emotionally stalled between the ages of eleven and sixteen and became the poster-girl for the rebellious sixties. It amazes me that I’m alive today after some of the hair-raising stunts I pulled. It wasn’t until after high school and a little bit beyond, that the strong moral compass instilled within me by my staunch Italian/Catholic mother took hold. I’ve forged on to create a life of which I can truly say I’m proud.

    I weathered my father’s death shortly after my own wedding, kissed the eyelids of my third child after she died in my arms at three weeks of age and then buried my first husband at the age of 41 after he lost his battle with depression and alcoholism. The worst day of my life thus far, was the day I gathered my four children, ages 8 to 14, to inform them that their larger-than-life, Air Force hero father had died. Watching them suffer… Even as a writer, I can find no words to express the pain.

    Not one to show weakness, people call me strong which is a two-edged sword. Resilient people suffer just as much pain as those who melt into a puddle, crumble to the floor and wail before the coffin. People mistake strong individuals as unfeeling people and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

    When my brother was killed in a horrific semi truck crash and fire, I gave the eulogy at his funeral and was asked, “How could you do that? How did you keep from crying?” I did it because I loved him so very much. In an effort to console my family and our friends, I brought my memories of his life to life.

    I’m proud of myself and continue to find strength under the umbrella of my mother’s amazing grace and attempt to cloak and hopefully empower my own children and grandchildren in the same way.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share.

    Carolyn Toms-Neary

  • MM Jaye

    What an amazing post and what an inspiring collection of personal stories! My own jaw-dropping moment came when I realized that my heroine’s obsession with my hero needed further explanation. Why was she so set on gaining his approval ever since she was a child? (He was her stepbrother’s best friend.) Why was so important to me to write from that angle? After some digging, I found that she suffered from “emotional deprivation disorder”. Constant denigration and verbal abuse at a young age can cause it. These people won’t fully mature emotionally until they find someone who will offer them emotional affirmation. And guess what? I’m that person!

    I had no idea I was writing about myself. Granted, I grew up with an over-criticizing mother and a very strict father, and of course I never obsessed about a gorgeous Greek billionaire like my heroine (I wish) and when my daughter came, when I was 42, I thought I nailed the unconditional love, but no… She was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and I had to fight for her love like I always do. But that fight was worth it, and now that she is five, and our emotional relationship is very healthy, I feel I could take an army. My heroine also found affirmation through her child, not through a man’s love. Of course, my story being a romance, they all had their happily ever after. We can do that in books, at least…

    Greetings from Greece!

    • Oh, Maria, what a triumph for you and your daughter! (And your heroine, as well.) It’s wonderful that you’ve reversed the kind of atmosphere you grew up in, and even found a way to spread that realization to readers as well.

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