The Power of the Virgin’s Promise Arc
Just as people can’t be confined to boxes, neither can fictional protagonists. And no archetype demonstrates the struggle of conformity better than the Virgin’s Promise.
First created by author Kim Hudson in her book The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening, this archetypal journey is all about listening to your innermost voice and following your destiny despite external pressures. Like the Hero’s Journey and the Heroine’s Journey, any gender can follow the Virgin’s Promise. However, unlike those traditional tales, this path is less about saving a community and more about completing a self-fulling prophecy.
Stories like Bend It Like Beckham, The Other Boleyn Girl, and even Wedding Crashers follow the Virgin’s Promise. If you, too, want to harness this powerful archetype, here are the 13 necessary beats (not steps, as they’re in no particular order) to craft your character’s journey.
Our protagonist—like all of us—is born into a world where they’re dependent on others for safety, security, and love. In this stage, we see that they’ve been taught to live within the confines of community and social conventions. Stepping out of bounds doesn’t feel like an option.
Price of Conformity
Our character actively works to suppress any part of themselves that may disrupt the status quo, they’re often left feeling lonely and unfulfilled. But this conformity comes with a price, namely a sense of personal powerlessness. Think of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde when her boyfriend dumps her because he thinks she’s not smart enough.
Opportunity to Shine
If only for a brief moment, our protagonist gets a glimpse of what it feels like to let their authentic self shine. This could come in the form of helping someone in need (like when Mulan went off to fight so her father wouldn’t have to), fulfilling a wish, or even an act of fate. Whatever it is, it’s enough to give our virgin a taste of their true potential.
Dresses the Part
With newfound purpose, our protagonist seeks out a playful yet tangible representation of their inner dream. Like when Jess gets the soccer shorts in Bend it Like Beckham, or how Mulan puts on her soldier’s garb. While an important piece of the journey, this beat is usually on the playful side and serves as a way for them to “try on” the role they secretly hope to inhabit.
In order for our character to really flex their creative muscles, they need a space to safely dream. This could be a physical space (like the secluded campsite in Brokeback Mountain), a hidden identity, or even a psychological state of mind. But whatever it is, our character is desperate to keep its existence a secret from their dependent world.
No Longer Fits Her World
This is the first instance that our character realizes their authenticity no longer fits the confinement of their dependent world. Like in Bend it Like Beckham, when Jess starts to exhibit reckless behavior.
Inevitably, our virgin’s two worlds collide, and their secret life is exposed either because their secret world got too big to hide or because somebody betrayed them. Chaos and confusion ensue as they must deal with the fallout of their actions.
Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck
Easily the most difficult aspect of our virgin’s transformation, in this step, they must permanently give up the source of their powerlessness. This could be a real-life thing like money or status, or something more emotional, like when Danielle lets go of needing her stepmother’s love and approval in Ever After.
Kingdom in Chaos
Not only does our protagonist need to grow, but so does the dependent world she was born into. So we often have a moment where our virgin attempts to guide the people around them to a better way of life. But since these people are so entrenched in their old ways, the process usually creates chaos and confusion.
Wanders in the Wilderness
In order to truly change, our protagonist needs to separate themselves from their old world and venture into the unknown. This usually involves a physical journey, but it could also be an emotional or psychological one. Either way, some form of isolation and self-reflection is key.
Chooses Her Light
Having spent time in their internal wilderness, our character finally decides to fulfill their inner dream. In doing so, they accept the responsibility that comes with choosing a life of purpose and power—no matter what it may cost them. For example, at the end of Shakespeare in Love, Viola decides to be on stage even though she might receive shame from her family and prison time.
Because our protagonist is brave enough to stand in their own power, the world around them must change to fit their new identity. In doing so, the community itself grows and heals.
The Kingdom is Brighter
At the end of our story, the virgin’s transformation is complete. The character has grown, and the world around them is brighter because of it, offering more room for personal freedom, creativity, and authenticity.
Want To Dive Deeper?
The virgin archetype is a powerful and timeless story element that has been used in some of the world’s greatest tales. If you’re interested in exploring it further, I recommend reading Hudson’s book and checking out some of her other resources. She often hosts workshops and classes as well, which can be a great way to get more hands-on experience.
And if you need help putting pen to paper and making that dream novel a reality, don’t hesitate to check out my book coaching services. I offer customized support and guidance to help you take your story from concept to completion.