What Essential Stage is Missing from Your Heroine’s Journey?

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” —Willa Cather

 Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

                            Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, I attended Christopher Vogler’s workshop, “Essence of Story.” He clarified Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, a set of stages in the age-old three-act story. 


Modeling the stages using, Calculated Risk, would give my story away. So, I’ll use “Little Red Riding Hood” by Brothers Grimm. Visit Hero’s Journey for in-depth understanding and helpful charts.

Act 1 – Separation


1.  Ordinary World

Everyone loved the girl. She always wore the red riding hood her doting grandmother had made. Her grandmother called her Little Red Riding Hood.

Image courtesy of papaija2008 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of papaija2008 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2.  Call to Adventure

Little Red Riding Hood’s mother sent her with cakes to her ailing grandmother. She forbade the child to run off the path.

3.  Refusal of the Call

Little Red Riding Hood agreed to heed her mother. She refused anything but an uneventful, boring-to-the-reader day.

256px-Arthur_Rackham_Little_Red_Riding_Hood+4.  Meeting the Mentor

In the forest, Little Red Riding Hood met a wicked wolf. He obtained directions to her grandmother’s house. He advised her to collect flowers for her grandmother.

5.  Crossing the Threshold

Little Red Riding Hood received his counsel. She ran off the path and picked flowers. She crossed from her Ordinary World into a Special World.

Act 2a – Descent – Dragons (or wolves)


6.  Tests, Allies, Enemies

After waylaying Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf ran to the grandmother’s cottage and devoured her. He donned her clothes and got into her bed.

7.  Approaching the Inmost Cave

CottageLittle Red Riding Hood remembered her grandmother and hurried to her cottage. The open cottage door surprised her. She felt uneasy. Inside, her grandmother was in bed, her cap pulled over her face and looking strange.

Act 2b – Initiation (changes but must find her way to the right thing)


8.  The Crisis/Supreme Ordeal

Little Red Riding Hood questioned her grandmother’s odd features. The wolf leaped from the bed and ate her.

9.  Seizing the Reward

A huntsman heard the wolf snoring. Suspecting the wolf had eaten the grandmother, he cut the wolf open. Little Red Riding Hood sprung out, followed by her grandmother. The child collected stones, and they filled the wolf’s stomach. When he rose, he dropped dead from the heavy stones. The huntsman gained a wolf’s skin. The grandmother ate the cake and revived. The girl vowed to mind her mother and never leave the path by herself. 

Act 3 – Return (to Ordinary World)


10.  The Road Back

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Later, Little Red Riding Hood took cakes to her grandmother again. Another wolf tried to entice her from the path. She went straight to her grandmother and told her about the wolf.

11.  The Climax/Resurrection

When no one answered his knock, the wolf waited on the roof for Little Red Riding Hood to go home. The child put cooked sausages in the trough outside. The wolf leaned over to smell them and fell into the trough and drowned.

12.  Return with Elixir

Little Red Riding Hood returned home joyously and no one harmed her again.

Consider these stages of a hero’s journey in your 3-act story. Click to tweet.

What stage is missing or weak in the story you’re reading or writing?

3 Launch Pads from Which You Can Blast Off Creative Ideas

“In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done his best.” —Eric Liddell

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you used the same launch pad, the same source, for your creative ideas? Has the distance your ideas have soared become shorter?

Then it’s time you try a different launch pad or improve the one you’re using. Here are 3 launch pads your creative ideas can blast off from.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launch Pad 1. Your Experiences

This is probably the easiest and most popular launch pad. But in our Financial Peace University class, Dave Ramsey made a poignant point about our experience with money. With credit, debit, and ATM cards, we no longer feel the pain of shelling out money as we do when we count out dollar bills and coins. Instead, the pain comes when a check bounces or we realize we lack rent money.

Possibly, we need to revamp our “experience” launch pad. The experience of attending that class alerted me to how some of life’s improvements have desensitized me. I want to seek new experiences that allow myself to feel all the wonderful emotions God gave me.

My creativity thrives from those experiences in which I feel wonder, surprise, sadness, empathy, pain, awe, joy, my funny bone, etc.

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launch Pad 2. Your Research

For us who see research as work, we may forfeit some great ideas if we avoid it. I’m often surprised when I’m reading a book or article and an idea pops up for a project. Or while I’m researching the Internet for my novel, I’m delighted when something grabs me and an idea forms for another activity.

I learned how amazing research could be when I attended an American Christian Fiction Writers Conference when Francine Rivers was the keynote speaker.

Earlier on a cruise in the Mediterranean, I happened to be reading Francine Rivers’s A Voice in the Wind. The ship stopped in places the Apostle Paul visited: Rome, Corinth,  Athens, and Ephesus. I was stunned how Rivers brought alive Rome and Ephesus, whose streets we walked.

At the conference, I said to her, “You must’ve had the same tour guide we had in Ephesus, because you captured what he related in your novel.” She answered, “I’ve never been to Ephesus.”

This experience launched my great respect for research and how it can give me ideas for scenes in novels.

Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launch Pad 3. Others’ Experiences. 

This could come in the form of eavesdropping, an email loop, biographies, famous quotes, friends and family.

After I watched the movie, Chariots of Fire, I watched an interview on the DVD about Eric Liddell. He was the 1924 Olympic medalist runner who refused to run heats on Sunday. Elderly people, who’d been youths imprisoned in the same Japanese interment camp as Liddell, related Liddell’s selfless service. His example for youth as a runner and missionary touched me.

This birthed the idea for my hero in the romance I’m working on. My hero also saw the movie when he was young and his dream is to be the Eric Liddell of golf. Giving the youth of today a role model.

If you’re running dry for ideas from your favorite launch pad, try increasing your exposure in another.

Do you have another launch pad for creative ideas? How have you used it?

What Your Conference Blunders Teach You About Novel Writing

“There are no mistakes or failures, only lessons.” —Denis Waitley

Oops! Road Sign

Do you need to go to a writers’ conference to learn to write?

Yes. How else will you experience blunders that teach you about conflict; the hero’s greatest fears; obstacles, disasters, and ticking time bombs; and ramping up tension?

In going to the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Indianapolis, my goofs showed me in my deep point of view* everything I needed to know about these writing principles.

* Deep Point of View is a writer’s technique to make readers feel they’re living inside a character’s mind.

Ramping Up Tension

Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The night before I left for conference, I still had packing to do. I needed to finish my pitch to editors. And I needed a golf glove to complete my costume for the dress-up-like-your-character dinner.

Adding to that, I’d scheduled to attend a board meeting and regular meeting that night. I left for the meetings with barely enough time to stop and purchase a golf glove.

With all I had to do, I sensed a meltdown coming on just short of hives. Now, I knew how to write my characters’ emotions under escalating tension.

Obstacles, Disasters, and Ticking Time Bombs

mage courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
mage courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the second leg of our drive from Virginia, my sister and I left with enough time to make it to the Conference’s Early Bird session. While we yakked, something felt wrong. Then realization slammed me. I’d tapped on the wrong hotel address in my GPS. We’d traveled twenty-one minutes back toward home! Panic set in. Could we make up forty-two minutes of lost time?

A second realization hit me when the low-gas light appeared. The trip meter said I had twenty miles of gas left. On all horizons lay miles of Ohio cornfields. My heart jumped to my tonsils. I prayed frantically as the miles of gas kept dropping and we passed exits without gas stations. Would we find a station before stranded with only corn to survive?

I pumped gas with six miles of gas to spare. And we arrived on time for the Early Bird session. Thank you, Lord.

Now, I knew how to write my characters’ emotions while disasters created a ticking time bomb.

The Hero’s Greatest Fears

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Image courtesy of hyena reality at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The conference parking information I received ahead of time was confusing. The info mentioned twelve-hour parking when I needed twenty-four. Rates would increase during the Colt’s game unless I moved my car. But move it to where? I feared I’d have no place to park.

When we arrived, parking was a breeze.

My greatest fears were unrealized. That was good, but how boring for you!


Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

During the conference, I left an interesting session to attend a mentor appointment. A writer was pitching her story to an editor at the mentor’s table. Bummed, I told a volunteer the mentor hadn’t shown up. The volunteer interrupted the editor and writer, thinking the writer was the mentor.

Embarrassed at her faux pas, the volunteer checked the schedule. My appointment was for the next day. The volunteer was unhappy with me. I could’ve crawled under a rock.

Now, I knew how to write my characters’ emotions when they were in conflict with other characters.

I’m thankful (now) for these events that showed me how to write emotions in deep point of view.

What situations have taught you something you could include in your creative work?