Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sometimes it is in the ether - Michelle Styles

Lately I have been doing revisions on what has turned out to be a particularly difficult book. It took me an age to realise that I wanted to reference the myth Psyche and Eros. It is one of my favourite myths and deals with Eros as a young man rather than a pudgy baby and the whole concept of a true marriage. A true marriage is one where Heart and Soul combine on equal terms. It is also the precursor of Beauty and the Beauty as well as East of the Sun, West of the Moon. But I am used to not seeing it referenced and worried that somehow I had totally missed the boat as I was more intrigued by the second half of the myth rather than the more usual first bit.

Thanks to the excellent craft book (in fact of the best books on the craft of fiction I have ever read) -- The Manuscript Makeover Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon, I learnt about The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock. Lyon pointed out that many women’s fiction books use this, and it is far more inward looking (ie internal conflict) based than the Vogler/Campbell definition of The Hero’s Journey. Having reading Vogler’s A Writer Journey, I immediately ordered The Heroine’s Journey. It did not disappoint and I do agree with Lyon that every writer of women’s fiction should read it. Murdock was inspired to write it after a conversation with Campbell in 1981 where he basically said that women did not need to go on a journey as in mythology they were already there. She decided that he was wrong and women might not go out on a quest but they had to grow and change. Jungian feminist, it is about the feminine healing process and how women become whole – basically separating from the mother, going into the masculine world, suffering trials and tribulations, finding illusionary success, awakening to feelings of is that all, descent to the dark part of the soul, yearning to reconnect with the feminine, healing the mother/daughter split, healing the wounded masculine and full integration.
In The Heroine’s Journey, Murdock references the Psyche and Eros myth in relation to the whole conundrum of illusionary romantic love versus true love. And as an author of Historical Romance and a lover of series romance, I prepared to roll my eyes, grit my teeth and endure. But when I finished the passage, I agreed with her and understood where some feminists have been going wrong. The illusion of romance is what Psyche has before she lifts her lamp and sees the beautiful youth that is her husband. All of her needs are taken care of but she does not have to do anything and has no responsibility. She just exists as an object of beauty. After Eros flies out the window proclaiming that love cannot survive without trust, Psyche takes control of her life, undergoes a series of trials and including facing death until she is worthy of becoming a goddess. She becomes his equal. The relationship is no longer one-sided but a partnership. They both take responsibility for each other. It is true love.
And I would argue that the romance genre is far more concerned with true love than illusionary romance. It is a point that some miss or gloss over but it is why the genre is so popular. And it was with great relief that I finished my revisions and realised that I had not in fact gone marching off in the wrong direction but had gained insight into why I write what I do.

So has anyone read the Heroine's Journey?

Michelle Styles' latest North American release is Sold & Seduced. Her next North American Release will be the Roman set A Noble Captive in April 2010. You can read excerpts from both on her website.


Pat Cochran said...

Haven't read Journey yet, but it
sounds like something I need to
find, soon!

Pat Cochran

shannonm said...

I agree..sounds very interesting!!

Linda Henderson said...

I have not read it yet. I'll have to look it up.

Michelle Styles said...

Oh I do hope others read it. It is very interesting. I was sort of surprised how interesting it was. Far more accessible than Campbell's hero with a Thousand Faces.
It did make me think and consider.
There was a lovely exercise in the book about beiing satisfied. Pick one task you did today, write it down, write I am satisfied and then And that's Enough!

Alison said...

I like the idea of 'I am satisfied' - must try that some time!

denise said...

I can't wait to read your book. It looks great!