the start of the story

We are told most often that, when a heroine's story begins, she finds herself propelled into action, sometimes against her will. But I like to look at it in a different way. I think that, at the beginning, a story opens itself for the heroine. And always she chooses how to respond. Her choices may not be good ones, but after all that's what story is here for - to help her learn better choices, stronger ways of being her true self.

It's not really so helpful to talk about beginnings, though. Nothing is ever new. Every heroine stands always in the residue of what has come before, and it never actually leaves her. Even in the depths of story, when she is facing the dragon in its dreadful lair, she brings with her childhood memories, and things her mother said, and scars from smaller dragons she's met along the way. So a beginning is really just a reforming, perhaps a deepening, of the long tale her soul is telling over and again.

As the story opens, as the world offers its heart to her in sorrow or excitement or fear, the heroine decides how she will respond. Will she meet the invitation of the world with a spirit of hospitality or rejection? Will her love for life show through courage or fear? How she steps over that threshold into story is, for better or worse, something she needs to resolve before she come home again. And how she chooses at first to see the world's heart is, I believe, the very essence of the journey she makes.

Because it's never just about the heroine in the isolation of her own heart or mind. Every story is a tale of relationship between a wo/man and the world, a woman and the dragon, a woman and the stories she has always believed which now must be untold in the process of finding new, better, stronger words with this retelling.

So I don't like to hear about how a heroine is thrust into sudden calamity. The stars of destiny have always been on her brow. The dragon has always been waiting. Over and again the story of her life has opened itself to her in large and small ways, in dreams and portents and the bread not rising, the summer not thriving - and she's turned away in fear, in innocence - or she's gone into that story, only to misunderstand, and underperform, so it must return and offer itself again to her.

And even when she succeeds - the dragon is dead! the hand of the prince is won! - still the story will come again, opening to new shapes - the child will not sleep peacefully, the ministers are corrupt, the dragon's spawn is rising -

Because the truth is, my heroine, you are the story.

(the heroine's journey)

illustration by john bauer


  1. Very exciting. I would like my daughter to know this when she is older... although we're rather fond of dragons in our house, maybe even more than princes, but that's our story.

    1. Oh, me too! At a later point in the journey I hope to show that the dragon is infact a valuable part of the heroine's own heart. I have treated dragons rather badly in one of my books, but in truth I love them. (This coming from a woman who, as a small child, always wished desperately that Cinderella would marry Buttons instead of Prince Charming.)

  2. Beautiful, and so very very true.

  3. This is enchanting. I love this. x


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