While the Hero's Journey is traditionally a circle, the Virgin's Promise is better described as an inward-moving spiral. "Female heroes," Christopher Vogler states, in the "Forward" to The Virgin's Promise,
seem to move towards the center of a series of rings that represent the different levels of female relationships [...]. Then they may return through all those levels, unwinding the spiral, applying what they have learned at their center to each set of relationships.The inward spiral hearkens back to the central dichotomy between the Hero's Journey and the Virgin's Promise: Heroes are concerned with external circumstances and their place within them (mythology); Virgins focus on the internal, developing self-worth and self-hood (folklore). The Hero's Journey progresses into the deep unknown and back up again; the Virgin's Promise spirals ever inward.
This idea of an inward spiral fascinates me, but I've yet to find in the book or on the internet a diagram that graphically demonstrates it (I have the e-book version of TVP, maybe there's a diagram in the print version?). So I played around with it on my own, and came up with this:
|Yay! Another hand drawn diagram! I'm sure you're all overjoyed|
to have such constant access to my artistic skills.
There's other neat stuff, too. You'll notice that the stages are now organized into spokes, according to this diagram. That isn't on accident. The "northern" spoke contains Dependent World, Secret World, Kingdom in Chaos, and Kingdom is Brighter. The association between these stages is obvious: they're all part of the relational triangle between the Virgin, the Kingdom/Dependent World, and the Secret World. This spoke is largely external in nature.
Price of Conformity, No Longer Fits Her World, and Re-Ordering (Rescue) make up the eastern spoke. This spoke is generally internal, in contrast to the northern spoke. Each of these stages deals heavily with the Virgin's personal value (how she sees herself) and personal authority, or power.
The southern spoke consists of Opportunity to Shine, Caught Shining, and Chooses Her Light. The theme of light here is unmistakable. Like the eastern spoke, this spoke is mostly internal, and deals with the Virgin's pursuit of her Dream, and her connection with what I'm calling her "Inner Goddess" (which has ties to Harmon and Campbell, but I'll get to that later*).
The western spoke contains Dresses the Part, Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck, and Wanders in the Wilderness. This spoke, like the northern spoke, is mostly external, and deals with the Virgin's outward energy, change, transformation, and sacrifice.
This version of the inward spiral splits the Virgin's Promise into the three-act format I gave it yesterday quite well, too. The first ring contains Dependent World, Price of Conformity, Opportunity to Shine, and Dresses the Part--Act I, or what I've deemed Discovery.
Act II, or Growth, follows the second ring of Secret World, No Longer Fits Her World, Caught Shining, Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck, and (to cheat just a little bit because it's technically on the third ring) Kingdom in Chaos.
Act III, Fulfillment, finished the third ring with Wanders in the Wilderness, Chooses Her Light, Re-Ordering (Rescue), and Kingdom is Brighter.
Pretty cool, no?
Now, let's talk about Dan Harmon's story structure just for a moment. Yesterday I mentioned briefly how the Virgin's Promise can still follow Harmon's structure, with one or more of the thirteen stages fitting into each point of Harmon's YOU, NEED, GO, SEARCH, FIND, TAKE, RETURN, CHANGE circle. That is definitely true. But one of the cool things about Harmon's structure (and most story structures in general, as far as I know) is that it is (they are) fractal* in nature. Harmon encourages us to
think of each of the 8 steps as consisting of 8 microcosmic substeps. [...] I'm not recommending that you sit there with a compass and a calculator breaking down your story to the point where every 4 second line of dialog consists of 8 syllables and tells the story of a sentence, but it's possible and sometimes "going there" can help you make decisions or get unblocked. ("Story Structure 106: Five Minute Plots")Essentially, each of the eight points in Harmon's story structure can be divided into eight more points of the same distinction, and so on ad infinitum. The same principle applies to the Virgin's Promise; while the thirteen stages of TVP fit into Harmon's eight points, you can also break it down into each act, as it were, and this inward spiral demonstrates that very well. Check it:
|Another awesome visual aid. Word to ya mammz.|
I geek out about this kind of stuff, guys. I think it's awesome.
Anyway. So there's kind of my personal touch on the Virgin's Promise, as seen through a Dan Harmon-ish lens.
My story structure series isn't over yet, though--I'll be applying the Virgin's Promise to a recent movie or two in the near future, among other things, so keep your eyes open for that!
* And by later, I apparently mean I'll get to it in a later post...
** Not only is "fractal" one of the coolest words in the English language, but it is a fascinating concept as well, especially in relation to story. And will surely be the subject of a post on my blog, one day...