Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 4: The Queen Arc

What happens after the happily ever after? This is a question we often ask but seldom explore. As discussed in previous weeks, the two archetypal character arcs that begin the cycle of six “life arcs” are the Maiden and the Hero. Together, they account for a great majority of the archetypal stories we read and view, and together they act to resolve the protagonist’s initiation into adulthood—which often ends “happily” with the protagonist’s re-integration into a meaningful position of work and relationship within the larger tribe or Kingdom.

But the vague “ever after” part of the phrase is only there if we choose not to follow the character into the life arcs of the Second Act of her life. Just as the two arcs of the First Act were characterized as representing the first thirty years of the character’s life, the next two arcs can be thought of as representing the Second Act and comprising the next thirty years—approximately from the ages of thirty to sixty.

Obviously what we see represented here is a more mature phase of life—an unequivocally adult phase. The protagonist has put behind her the challenges of individuation and initiation on her way to discovering healthy relationships, building her own family, and investing herself in meaningful work. But as any of us chronologically in the Second Act can attest, the adventure is far from over.

The challenges of the First Act were primarily about the character’s Relationship With Self and her ability to integrate the separate parts of herself. The Second Act arcs of Queen and King are about Relationship With Others. In The Virgin’s Promise, Kim Hudson mentions the many options for how this relationship may be dramatized:

The Mother/Goddess and the Lover/King know their power and must now enter into a relationship to use their power well and gain meaning in their life. This relationship can be between a man and a woman, a mother or a father and a child, and a woman or a man and her/his community. This union brings a form of wholeness.

If the overarching theme/challenge of the First Act was Fear, that of the Second Act is Power. The Queen, particularly, is an arc about learning to responsibly accept and use one’s power in relationship and in authority. The static archetype that lives between the Hero and the Queen is that of the Parent. After returning from the Hero’s adventures of the Quest, the initiated adult settles down and starts a family, whether literally or symbolically.

But the love the Hero learned in his arc is not enough to bear up the Queen’s growing burdens of responsibility. If she is to continue her maturation and grow her abilities to defend, enable, and direct the next generation of Maidens and Heroes in their own journeys, then she must grow beyond the role of loving Parent into the true leadership of the subsequent static archetype of Ruler—and its following arc of the King.

Dreamlander NIEA Finalist

Dreamlander (Amazon affiliate link)

For me personally, the Queen Arc has been one of the most exciting to explore. As I’ve been outlining the sequel stories to my portal fantasy Dreamlander, I’ve been challenged to ask what we all ask sooner or later, “What happens to the Hero after the Hero’s Journey?” Is it just another Hero’s Journey? Instinctively, I think we all know that true characterization demands that the sequel for any Hero must offer an even deeper journey into the protagonist’s self.

As always, before we officially get started, I want to emphasize two important reminders that hold true for all of the arcs we’ll be studying.

1. The arcs are alternately characterized as feminine and masculine. Primarily, this indicates the ebb and flow between integration and individuation, among other qualities. Together, all six life arcs create a progression that can be found in any human life (provided we complete our early arcs in order to reach the later arcs with a proper foundation). In short, although I will use feminine pronouns for the feminine arcs and masculine pronouns for the masculine arcs, the protagonist of these stories can be of any gender.

2. Because these archetypes represent Positive-Change Arcs, they are therefore primarily about change. The archetype in which the protagonist begins the story will not be the archetype in which she ends the story. She will have arced into the subsequent archetype. The Queen Arc, therefore, is not about becoming the Queen archetype, but rather arcing out of it into the beginnings of the King Arc—and so on.

The Queen Arc: Defending the Kingdom

The Queen represents who the Hero has become after returning from the Quest. She represents not just someone with the capacity for heroism, but also someone with a deep connection and compassion for those she previously saved—for her family and community.

That community—her Domestic World—is a rich and joyous place, full of love and nurturing, where she has found purpose and joy in guiding the Children and the directing the Maidens. But it is easy for her to lose herself at the Hearth, so to speak. It is easy to lose herself in this loving world and in the headiness of having so many adoring dependents—her children (literal or metaphorical) with whom she deeply identifies.

Fortunately, as in all stories, a catalyst arrives to prompt her growth into the next phase of her life (and her children into theirs). The Kingdom comes under threat from outside forces, and the current leadership proves itself incapable of protecting her family. In her book The Heroine’s Journey—which presents a model that aligns closely with the Queen Arc—paranormal romance author Gail Carringer states:

A key moment in any Heroine’s Journey is that precipitating fracture of family that will drive her into action.

Hmm. Whatever is a Queen to do?

Stakes: Accepting the Burden of Leadership

The Hero had to realize that Love creates meaning, but the Queen must recognize that Love isn’t enough. There must also be Order, else all is Chaos—the children will all be spoiled brats who never leave their mother’s breast, never graduate from Maiden to Hero.

And yet there is a tremendous part of her that cannot bear that her children should grow up and leave her. Like all of the positive archetypes, she stands on the narrow center point between her negative poles—the Snow Queen and the Sorceress, who are often the villainous representations of corrupted power whom the Maidens (specifically) must overcome.

Instead, the Queen must now mature away from her own needs for connection. She must mature into the comparatively lonely role of the leader, willing to entrust responsibility to her able subordinates. Part of her challenge in becoming King is letting her children grow up. Because she enjoys being Queen, she doesn’t necessarily want to become King. Relinquishing her children feels like a Death (and indeed, symbolically, is). In Sacred Contracts, Caroline Myss discusses the inherent relationship focus of this archetype:

Challenges related to control, personal authority, and leadership play a primary role in forming the lessons of personal development that are inherent to this archetype. The benevolent Queen uses her authority to protect those in her court and sees her own empowerment enhanced by her relationships and experience.

Unlike the Maiden and Hero, who resist their incumbent evolution out of fear of the Powers That Be, the Queen resists change because she is content. She likes where she’s at and feels like she’s earned it. But necessity calls. Her brood grows too big. They need guidance. They need to be released from the Home into the Kingdom and beyond. She must transform and rise up to face the threats against the Kingdom by becoming the leader the Kingdom needs. Her love must grow from enveloping and protecting to enabling and ordering.

Her fear of becoming King isn’t because she lacks the qualities—power, will, intelligence. Her fear is that in giving up on her Queen identity, she can no longer be identified with her children—or they with her. No longer can she throw herself in front of a wayward child and tell the punisher—“Take me instead.” Now she must view her children as subjects and become, instead of their shield, an impartial arbiter.

Antagonist: The Empty Throne

The catalyst that drives the Queen into action and growth is represented by an exterior threat to the Kingdom—symbolic Invaders. But the true antagonist within her story is the Kingdom’s lack of a mature and healthy leader to combat this threat. The Queen will start out appealing to what leadership exists—only to discover the throne is, symbolically, empty. It is occupied by either a Puppet or a Tyrant, and either presents as great a threat to the Kingdom from within as does the Invader from without.

Despite her initial attempts and desires to work within the existing system, the Queen must eventually realize that the only way to protect her children is to rise up and do it herself. She does this not out of a personal need (as does the Maiden) or a desire for glory (as does the Hero), but in defense of what she loves. Carringer states:

While our hero tends to move toward objects and acquisitions of power (a supernatural sword, magic amulet, and so on), the heroine’s descent is precipitated by a rejection of divine power (or defined social role) as a result of a familial connection (or relationship network) being taken from her. This can also be seen as a loss of identity or it can manifest in a more concrete way, such as an actual disguise.

Theme: Power in Relationship

The Maiden and Hero Arcs evolve the character into personal responsibility. The Queen and later the King Arcs now demand that the character evolve into relational and social responsibility. No matter what “invasion” may be threatening in the story’s outer conflict, this is the central thematic focus of the Queen’s arc. Hudson says:

The Mother/Goddess, the Lover/King … represent the middle stage of life, and all face the challenge of entering into a relationship with another.

Once again, it’s important to note that the language used throughout this series is, by nature, archetypal. We speak of Queens and Kingdoms and Invaders, but these concepts can be represented just as immediately in contemporary stories with none of these trappings.

One of my favorite examples of the Queen Arc is the baseball comedy A League of Their Own, which takes place against the backdrop of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II. In it, the protagonist Dottie (played by Geena Davis) reluctantly undertakes a Queen Arc, growing into mature leadership, cleverly outmaneuvering the threats from without that would shut down the league and the threats from poor leadership within (the alcoholic, apathetic “manager” played by Tom Hanks) to eventually demand individual responsibility from her “subjects”—the other players and particularly her Maiden-archetype younger sister.

Unlike the Hero who, in order to properly fulfill his growth challenges, must win alone, the Queen’s growth arc demands she enable others to work with her. She will start out in a more Heroic mindset, wanting to do it the way she did it before and spare everyone else the conflict, but she must learn that she cannot—that she is only able to save her family by enabling them to take up arms alongside her. Carringer again:

When in possession of political power, the heroine acts more like a military general (or a really good general manager), getting help, recognizing the strengths in others, and doling out tasks and requests for aid accordingly. Her objective is often to build and empower in the form of community, city, family, love.

Key Points of the Queen Arc

For easy reference and comparison, I will be sharing some scannable summations of each arc’s key points:

Queen’s Story: A Battle.

Queen Arc: Protector to Leader (moves from Domestic World to Monarchic World)

Queen’s Symbolic Setting: Kingdom

Queens Lie vs. Truth: Control vs. Leadership

“Only my loving control can protect those I love.” versus “Only wise leadership and trust in those I love can protect them and allow us all to grow.”

Queens Initial Motto: “We, the True Believers.”

(This is via Spiral Dynamics’ “Blue” Meme. If you’re not familiar with Spiral Dynamics, this probably won’t mean anything, but I was fascinated to realize that the six positive archetypal arcs line up perfectly with the “memes” of human development as found in the theory of Spiral Dynamics.)

Queen’s Archetypal Antagonist: Invader/Tyrant

Queens Relationship to Own Negative Shadow Archetypes:

Either Snow Queen finally acts in Love for her children by accepting Responsibility.

Or Sorceress learns to submit her selfish Love to the greater love of Responsibility.

Queen’s Relationship to Subsequent Shadow Archetypes as Represented by Other Characters: Empowers Puppet or overcomes Tyrant with her power.

The Beats of the Queen Character Arc

Following are the structural beats of the Queen Arc.

1st ACT: Domestic World

Beginning: Dangers of Dependency

The Queen is busy and fulfilled, caring for her growing children. But she is in danger of identifying herself too much with her children’s dependency upon her and therefore of binding her children to her too tightly instead of allowing them grow up and individuate via their own Maiden Arcs.

In the beginning of Places in the Heart before her husband is accidentally killed, Edna is content in her happy home as mother to her two children.

Inciting Event: Enemies at the Door

The Domestic World is threatened when enemies arrive from “without.” Unfortunately, there is no one fit to defend the Kingdom from these Invaders. It could be there is no King, or the King is incompetent and/or corrupt, or the current King is arcing into Crone (to be discussed next week) and recognizes he must name and train a successor.

Whatever the case, the King will prove unwilling or unable to defend the Kingdom from the Invaders, and the Queen’s realm will be threatened by this void of leadership. This “Call to Leadership” will be countered by a Refusal when the Queen resists immediately taking charge of her family’s defense and instead chooses to believe she can convince the existing King to do what is necessary.

Gladiator Maximus and Aurelius Russell Crowe Richard Harris

In Gladiator, when an aging Emperor Marcus Aurelius entreats Maximus to rule Rome after his passing, in order to protect it from his psychopathic son Commodus, Maximus refuses, desiring instead to return to his wife and son on his farm in Spain.

2ND ACT: Monarchic World

First Plot Point: Entering the Castle

In order to entreat the King, the Queen reluctantly leaves her beloved Domestic World and enters the Monarchic World of the castle. She demands from him protection for her children. She may not immediately despair of the King’s ability to defend the Kingdom, but she accepts that she must do something herself—perhaps at the bidding the King, who is either trying to fob off his own responsibility onto her or simply fob her off.

In Elizabeth, the protagonist is crowned Queen of England, but she is not yet truly the ruler of her people. Her advisors rule the country and will not yet give her true power.

First Pinch Point: Children Clamor for Action

The Queen’s children aren’t content with her diplomatic attempts to assure their safety against the enemy. They believe in their mother more than they believe in the King, and they want her to take charge and help them defend the Hearth she has taught them to believe in and cherish. She resists this, neither wanting to leave her family for the throne, nor wanting her children to take up arms. She continues to hope and work for the King’s enablement against the Invaders.

In The Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter secretly begins teaching other students, at their insistence, so they can form “Dumbledore’s Army” and resist Voldemort (“Invader”) and Professor Umbridge (“Tyrant”).

Midpoint: Leading the Charge

Finally, the Queen finds herself with no choice but to take charge herself and assume leadership/kingship in pushing back the Invaders. She comes to a Moment of Truth in realizing that her love alone is not enough to protect her children. More than that, she cannot rely on others (i.e., the King) to perform the necessary acts of restoring order to the Kingdom. But she cannot win alone; she must lead a charge made up of her subjects. She agrees to lead her children to battle.

The children wish to fight for their mother and make her King—but they also begin to fear that her growing power will trap them in childhood (as it will if she fails to arc into the King and instead slides into one of the negative archetypes of Snow Queen or Sorceress). If she does not let them fight with her, as they demand, then she will become an obstacle to their growth into adulthood. But if she signals her own increasing shift from Queen to King by not just allowing them to grow up but challenging them to do so and to fight behind her, she will signify that her Queen/Mother aspect will not hold them back. Indeed, her actions here not only signal her own shift from Queen to King but demands her children begin making their shift from Maiden to Hero.

In A League of Their Own, when the players learn their league is struggling, Dottie leads the charge with theatrical stunts that bring in crowds, inspiring the other players to do the same.

Second Pinch Point: Children Become Adults

The children, in part inspired by the Queen’s example so far and in part galvanized by her remaining hesitancy, individuate from her. They wish to take responsibility for their own lives, to become subjects rather than children (although they do not yet fully understand the weight of this choice). They insist she claim the throne, even though this may mean she must eventually start meting out impartial punishment to some of them, in spite of her love for them, to maintain order.

In Elizabeth, the queen demands her long-time love Lord Robert, in particular, “grow up” and take responsibility for his own foolishness and his role as her subject.

 3rd ACT

False Victory: Protects Her Children

The Queen makes a deal that protects her children—but it is at the expense of their independence. It represents a failure of leadership, in that she moves between negative archetypes—both the fearful and possessive “love” of the Sorceress and the total control of the Tyrant.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey tries to bear the sole burden for the lost money. Instead of asking his friends for help, he tries to commit suicide to cash in his life insurance.

Third Plot Point: Kingdom in Chaos

The Queen’s attempt to protect her children without really assuming responsibility for leading them plunges the Kingdom into Chaos as the Invaders breach the borders.

In A League of Their Own, when Dottie’s husband returns, wounded, from the war, she decides to leave the team just before the World Series and go home. She does this in part for Kit, still “mothering” her.

Climax: Releases Her Children, Accepts Her Crown

The Queen accepts that she must trust her children to embark on their own journeys and to play their own parts in protecting the Kingdom under her guidance. She knowingly and willingly leaves behind the Domestic World forever and takes her place as a true leader of the Kingdom.

In 42, Jackie Robinson leads the Brooklyn Dodgers into the final game “as a team.”

 

Climactic Moment: Kingdom Is Saved

Working together, the Queen and her subjects are able to push back the Invaders and once again secure the borders of their Kingdom.

In The Post, newspaper publisher Kay takes control of her “kingdom” by publishing the revelation of a monumental government cover-up.

Resolution: Kingdom Prospers

The King is dead; long live the King. Having completed her arc, the Queen now ascends to the throne. No longer a Parent, she is now a Ruler. But her children are no longer Children; they have grown up as well. The cycle of life continues, and under her wise rulership the Kingdom prospers.

In Return of the King, Aragorn finally takes his throne as King of Gondor, restoring goodness to the realm as he begins his rule.

Examples of the Queen Arc

Examples of the Queen Arc include the following. Click on the links for structural analyses.

Stay Tuned: Next week, we will study the King Arc.

Related Posts:

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Can you think of any further examples of stories that feature the Queen Arc? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).

___

Love Helping Writers Become Authors? You can now become a patron. (Huge thanks to those of you who are already part of my Patreon family!)

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Usvaldo de Leon says

    I love this series which is expanding my concept of what story is actually about. I also love that for once i am here first.

    So the queen arc is essentially about submitting to and nurturing society by allowing our children to grow and assume their rightful place?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, obviously, the “children” don’t literally always have to be one’s own, but the arc represents the upwards spiral of life–in that once we mature out of own youthful arcs, we begin to become able and responsible for those following after us.

    • Joe Long says

      Dittos.

      I’ve been following Katie for years and I think this is the most thought provoking series I’ve read.

      It’s really got me seeing things on a macro level. Let me know if you agree.

      Early on we learned about archetypical characters, as defined by their relationship with the main character/protagonist. Love Interest, Buddy, Mentor, Antagonist, and so forth…but this series has reinforced that each of those characters has their own life arc.

      Maybe there are only five or ten characters who spend enough time on the pages to delve into their path in life, and maybe half of those will be flat, but that still still leaves a handful of characters to develop into a well rounded life-like figure.

      Last time I talked about my realization that even though Joe is the story teller in my book, that story is mainly his love interest Hannah’s maiden arc.

      This is basically a tale of their two families, where Hannah’s mother very nicely fits into the role of Queen. Teen mom, finally settles into a long term relationship but then is suddenly widowed. Moves back home, remarries and settles into a nice middle class suburban lifestyle with her three teens and new husband.

      But that’s the backstory, so the story as told on the pages can join her mid arc, in Janet’s case, I’d say the false victory – because things fall apart. Each of her three children face struggles and fail in their own ways, which tears at her own sanity as a mother.

      Each character has their own life path, but in telling a story at a certain place and time each will be at different points. They only make it onto the pages when it’s relevant to the main story line, but the readers can see how those supporting characters have progressed, making the collection of characters more true to life – if those arcs have been worked out by the author.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        Yes, it’s so interesting to start viewing the supporting characters in light of their own archetypal roles. The weft and weave of the story really deepens in complexity.

  2. Ah, I like the control vs. leadership angle. I have a heroine struggling with that issue as part of her subplot. Her best friend makes her understand she’s doing her people a disservice by thinking she must shield them from harm, when she ought to be empowering them to defend themselves from it. This impulse to control comes from an old trauma, of course.

    Aside from that, I’m really loving that this series is providing plot points for writing sagas and series fiction. Old-school adventure stories had an adventurer–>conqueror–> king career progression (see REH’s Conan), but I like how your series provides a more broader application of the concept of “arc progression.”

    P.S., did I miss the explanation of the Snow Queen / Sorceress? I imagine the Sorceress is an alluring femme fatale, and a Snow Queen is more cold and unapproachable?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Once I finish with the six main archetypal journeys (Maiden through Mage), I will begin exploring the negative shadow archetypes, which are represented by a polarity for each main archetype, one passive and one aggressive. Particularly in the instance of the Queen, her shadow archetypes represent either a fearful refusal to take responsibility leading for her “children” (the Snow Queen) or an attempt to control those in her care (the Sorceress).

  3. I feel sort of confused about my WIP, the last book in a PNR trilogy now. I could see the maiden arc in the first book, the hero arc in the second, and the beginning of the queen in the third. The third book diverges from the queen somewhere in the last half of the second act and morphs into something else. I’m not sure what. How important is it to follow any arc precisely?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      There is always power in solid and whole archetypal journeys, but as I mentioned (particularly in the first post in the series), there are no hard and fast rules here. Archetypal journeys aren’t *always* neatly confined to particular episodes within a series.

  4. M.L. Bulll says

    Verne from “Over the Hedge” I think is a Queen Arc.

  5. Interesting and not what I expected, but that was likely my own fault. Maturity frequently involves confronting mortality, both the character’s mortality and that of his associates, along with the characters own limitations. The full Beowulf saga shows this. Beowulf does become a king and we’re told he’s a good one, but the story revolves around his continuing heroic acts until his fall.

    I’m thinking the Arthur part of the traditional Arthur legend fits this. His positive arc is of him accepting the kingship and building the round table to rule with the knights of the realm, and possibly to keep them from killing each other. Even the full story is somewhat positive, because he faces betrayal honorably and by continuing to work with the knights and while he dies at the end, he births a legend of hope and justice. Is this even a decent analogy or am I totally off boat here?

  6. pjmoore58 says

    Thanks for bringing up the temptation to slide into negative archetypes. The incidents that cause the conversion into villainy can create the most interesting antagonists, especially when juxtaposed against heroes who resist the temptation. They can also blow up the assumption that antagonists always think of themselves as heroes, since some make a choice to exact revenge or succumb to corruption. Even Sauron didn’t start out as evil, but he definitely didn’t think of himself as good.

    Another great point is when the Queen is thrust into the King role, but isn’t ready. The struggles she faces when trying to perform both roles seem very true to life – for example, single mothers who build successful careers and/or businesses.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ll be talking about the negative archetypes later on in the series. They can be used to great effect, not just as protagonists in Negative-Arc stories, but as wonderful counterpart supporting characters to, as you say, juxtapose a Positive protagonist’s thematic decisions.

      • pjmoore58 says

        Can’t wait. My protagonist is in a negative character arc. She eventually triumphs, but I want to make sure the movement through her life works.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          The shadow polarities are always present within a Positive-Change Arc to some extent. Even though the arc is “technically” about moving from a less mature state to a more mature state, much of the evolution still has to do with resisting the temptations of fear and power that are inherent within the negative shadow archetypes.

      • I’m glad to hear you are going to address the negative arcs as well! Looking forward to that.

  7. Your statement about the first act of archetypes addressing fear and the second act addressing power lead me into an INTJ epiphany. This is the idea that best defines the scope of my WIP. The protagonist is in a Maiden maiden arc that ends successfully. But the antagonist is in a queen arc that ends tragically. Thinking of my antagonist in this way I think is going to help me finally get her as fully developed as she deserves and needs to be. Loving this series on archetypes!

  8. LaDonna K Ockinga says

    This was an especially enlightening and timely post for me. I had never read anything about the queen’s archetype. As I was reading, I realized this was the story of my second book I’ve been developing and had problems conceiving the next steps. This shot the path forward in that journey. Thank you so much. Now, I only hope the first book in the series gets published, I am out in the querying phase now.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Since we so often begin series with the Hero’s Journey, the Queen is very often a resonant next step.

  9. EmmaWrites says

    This series is very interesting. Thank you for this latest instalment.

    I am however a bit confused as it seems to me that a particular “phase of life” (which I am very much interested in as a romance writer) has been skipped.
    Indeed, I would say that in most romances (arguably not all), the protagonists follow neither a Maiden’s nor a Hero’s arc. So I was expecting the Queen’s arc to correspond to this next “phase of life” of building a relationship between two mature adults. However, after reading your post I feel this is not the story behind the Queen’s arc.

    Is it just that I am having trouble translating the archetypal language in one (or several) of the arcs to fit those kinds of journeys?

    What archetypes do you most often see for romance protagonists?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that there are *many* different types of archetypal stories–romance obviously being a huge one. However, within this model, I view the Lover archetype emerging particularly (although *not* exclusively) between the Maiden and Hero Arcs. I will be discussing the Lover later on in the series along with the other Flat or “resting” archetypal periods that occur between each of the transformation arcs.

  10. Is it possible for a single character within a single story to go through multiple archetypal arcs (ie: Maiden, then Queen, etc.)?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, although it’s important that they be integrated within a single overarching character that is linked up with the plot structure.

  11. I’m so loving this series! The three main characters in my book each seem to have one of these three first arcs. Thank you for breaking these down so well.

  12. I’m writing a Sleeping Beauty retelling, and I really wanted to explore the Maiden/Hero Arc.
    I don’t follow these guidelines strictly, I prefer your original character arc series, but goddamn,
    don’t they provide some useful beats and ideas to refer to when I’m stuck, and there’s a gaping
    hole in my protagonist’s character development. My current protagonist has seedings of Hero,
    Maiden, and even Queen! as she re-defines her place in society and starts seeing her
    frightening power as an intelligent young woman. People always told her to wait for her prince,
    but during the 100 years where she floated around as a ghost, separated by her sleeping body,
    she’s developed some great skills. But I also wanted to explore some more complicated nuances.
    Would being the literal ruler of a kingdom support her personality and life goals? Where’s the line
    between sacrifice for communtiy, and completely martyring your needs and burning yourself out
    and losing sight of yourself. A lot of it is still fuzzy, but I’m realizing I’m a tweener, and I work
    best when I make a basic outline, then pants, find interesting stuff in the heat of writing the draft,
    adjust the outline, and write again. I can’t wait for revisions because I get to look at the raw dough
    of my first draft, and then make some new scenes to strengthen the existing themes. This blog has
    fed my brain some great ideas about story structure and character arcs, and it’s always a thrill to
    look at my draft and go, :”Oh! oh! This scene would go well in the First Half of the Second Act because he’s getting “punished” by the lie…”

    So thank you for this blog, and thank you for this new series. It’s feeding me more great ideas. These are great guidelines to refer to. I think I’m currently in the beginning of my Hero Arc. I’ve completed my Maiden Arc a while ago, ever since I started healing from trauma and taking an active interest in my life. Now it’s time to use my new power to help the world.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Ghostly Sleeping Beauty–what a cool idea!

      And, yes, even though what I’m presenting here is each archetype as its own complete arc, there’s lots of precedent for crossover. Many Heroes these days bring in a lot of Maiden nuances, essentially combining the two archetypes.

  13. I love this series. I’ve read Campbell and used it in some of my stories, but seeing these only helps me become a better storyteller. Thank you!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      One thing I really enjoyed in the research was seeing the patterns that kept emerging from system to system and how they crossed over.

  14. Over the years, I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated your posts. This particular series is so far my favorite! It is both analytical and sparks my creativity. I’m dreaming about my characters differently right now. Thank you so much for your hard work and sharing your insight. Best wishes.

  15. I’m really enjoying this series, and its alternatives to the ubiquitous hero’s journey. The Queen Arc seems particularly different, and I had to re-read the blog after listening to the podcast to make sure I got the gist of it. The examples help, especially “A League of Their Own”, which has long been one of my “why don’t they make movies like that anymore?” movies.

    As I was listening, I naturally drifted through candidates for other examples of the form, but my favorite of these ends up as a negative arc, with the heroine transforming into the cruel sorceress (literally!) in order to control those she loves, so I think I’ll wait until your negative arc episode before telling you all about the anime movie “Madoka Magica Rebellion”.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I haven’t seen it, but love the title!

    • A League of Their Own is great storytelling. I love the climactic scene where the two sisters face-off. The earlier trade of the one sister to another team sets up this possibility later in the story. “The Queen” dramatically returns for the last game and sets up the sisterly final conflict with “The Maiden”. Cleverly, the screenwriters create a satisfying conclusion that leaves us with both heroines in a good place. Neither sister seems to be the lesser from the conflict.

  16. Much insightful, K.M.! Thanks to this new series, and specifically your explanation of the Maiden and Queen arcs, I figured out exactly what my current story is thematically about. I can’t wait to learn more about the Queen’s shadow archetypes, I think it will fit perfectly with my antagonist. It’s fascinating how we write archetypes even before consciously understanding them.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, that’s the best thing about the whole archetypal discussion, IMO. It’s not that we really *learn* about them; it’s more that we discover names for things already in our experience.

  17. That’s why Luke’s character is so off in The Last Jedi!! He needed to have a Queen Arc, not another Hero one! (If it could even be called that…)

  18. Great insights here. This is going to leave a big impact.

    The story I’ve been struggling with for various reasons for 5 years is definitely one of these female type arcs, but I can’t decide whether Maiden, Queen or what I suspect your Crone arc will be about. I’m betting it’s about seeking truth or wisdom, in a more holistic way, and then teaching that to others to perhaps change the culture of the setting.

    I’d sum up the Maiden arc as developing an ego, the Hero’s arc as testing that ego, the Queen arc as developing a super-ego, and a King’s arc I’d guess is testing that super-ego.

    For the Crone and Mage arcs I’m not sure, but they might have to do with the integrating the shadow, and then controlling/manipulating the shadow.

  19. Non-narrative fiction has strong queen arcs.

    “Oodgeroo Noonuccal” (at one time, she was Kath Walker). Oodgeroo is queen of indigenous Australian poetry & a civil rights activist.

    “The Hospital by the River” by Katherine Hamlin, who took over the fistula hospital in Addis Ababa that she had established with her husband when he died. Katherine then taught Ethiopians to perform the surgery.

    “I, Maya Plisetskaya”. Plisetskaya was prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi Ballet. Her engineer father was murdered by the Soviets. She resisted their stifling of artistic innovation, performing in avant garde works.

    In my own co-written memoirs, there is Mama Teliqwa. She was a Gojjami patriot who resisted Mussolini’s fascists after the murder of her husband & sons. My co-author has the queen arc in that book’s sequel. It is set in UN hell-camps in Kenya. Mesfin supplied water to refugees & was one himself. His work was sabotaged by UN & NGO employees.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      These all sound like great examples of the Queen!

      • In real life, the queen arc may be repeated due to external circumstances: A person has learned to lead, yet must start over again and again. For example, people of colour in Australia & New Zealand may work for various employers. Due to colleagues’ violence, they must leave a string of workplaces. The migrants understand the dynamics, and have tried to transcend the circumstances. They end up starting their own businesses — providing services.
        In Australia, many migrants have shops, maintenance businesses or taxis. Their qualifications are valid in Australia, but are never used: they may have come as teachers, doctors, accountants or engineers. Thus Australia deprives herself of their professional skills as well as their soft skills.

  20. David Snyder says

    I just finished a novel where this describes the main character arc, and it is a heroine’s journey with a strong female protagonist. I put a great deal of time and effort into making it such. My beta readers love it—men and women—and one female reader expressed the theme as “the re-emergence of the feminine divine.” I like that.

    It is odd to me that at least one “professional” (female) sort of rolled her eyes at this, as if to say: “That is too woo woo. I need psychokillers and a hero’s journey.”

    Call me crazy, but I think the heroine’s journey is where the future is—but there will be obstacles in the industry.

    Readers, however, are dying for it—from all walks of life and all identities. I truly believe this.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think there’ll be a place for more of these arcs more frequently in the future.

  21. Another dazzling post. I’m really liking dynamic of the external conflict with the internal struggle, the invaders are both outside the kingdom walls and inside the queen’s psyche. I also like that you are pointing out the archetypal antagonists. That’s been useful for my current WIP in terms of character development. Thanks for sorting all of this stuff out for us!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I didn’t originally include deeper explorations of the archetypal antagonists in this series, but I’m working an addendum now. I’ll probably run it later this year, in the fall, so as not to overload everyone on the archetype stuff–since this is already going to be a looong series!

  22. Hearing you describe the queen arc was very interesting to me, and it provided a new lens with which to view one of my favorite characters, Lucretia (The Director) from the Balance campaign on the Adventure Zone podcast (currently being adapted to a graphic novel which has changed her character considerably). This description fit her so well. The story is not told chronologically, and I think we first meet her after the point when she has protected her “children” at the expense of their independence. We then see her earlier in her story, having a sort of Hero’s arc, but more from an outsider’s perspective? She is never positioned as a Main Character due to the nature of the medium, and many fans refuse to see her as protagonistic because of her moral greyness, but she definitely has the most growth and impact on the plot of all the characters and is also the most ethical and explicitly non-violent– she stops wars that she was coerced into starting as well as ultimately the apocalypse, and shielding, both literally and emotionally/mentally, is a huge aspect of how she operates. I think her queen arc begins near the end of the Stolen Century and spans the end of the podcast’s narrative, lining up nearly exactly with your description of the arc.

    The biggest departure is the idea of her “children” demanding action from her, but I think it can still be reconciled with this arc in that she is explicitly motivated by her love for them, wants to end their suffering by taking on more responsibilities/intervening, and wants to uphold the moral code her family had put forth. There’s also some vagueness about who the enemy/threat is at different points, as sometimes it’s a direct threat that she’s trying to fight, and sometimes it’s more abstract, like her family starting wars and falling into despair when a character goes missing. Then the resolution of the arc is subverted slightly with how Lucretia’s story wraps up, I think. Her resolution is a bit depressing to me, but she certainly severs ties with the more domestic realm, saves the world, and continues to serve as a ruler in this new domain. This is a really interesting/clarifying way to view her character, and I’m excited to pick through the podcast’s transcripts to try to make further sense of her in this light. I think some other characters from the podcast may slot into the queen arc well, too.

    Do you have any suggestions for further reading related to the queen arc? (I’ll be sure to check out your book, as well as The Heroine’s Journey !)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, as I mention, not every Queen Arc will explicitly manifest all of the beats I’ve suggested. It’s just an example. As for further reading, the only book I know of that *specifically* outlines something approximating the Queen Arc is Gail Carringer’s Heroine’s Journey. In it, she specifically references the “descent” myths of Demeter, Isis, and Inanna, which are definitely worth studying in this context.

      • Thanks so much, I’ll be sure to check that out. And it’s good to know a character can have an arc like this without fitting into the archetype perfectly. Character arcs and meaningful plot are the biggest barriers for me when writing, so I really appreciate the resources you’re offering us. I’m excited to try to puzzle out how my favorite characters are working in their stories too :^)

  23. Would Wanda in Wandavision be considered the Queen arc?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I haven’t seen it yet, so can’t comment, but it sounds plausible based on the trailers.

  24. Thank you for this – it was a welcome companion to the Gail Carriger book. I now see the queen arc as the experience for every divorced single parent ever…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, this isn’t to say, of course, that the arc doesn’t equally apply to parents in partnership, but it definitely resonates for those who are are on their own for some reason.

  25. Thank you for this series. The first novel in my trilogy lines up with a Hero arc, so I read this Queen arc synopsis in hopes of inspiration for the second novel. It seems the narrative arcs skip from returning home to establish a family directly to enabling young adult children to become full adults. But there is more than a decade lost including all those first difficult years postpartum. It feels like erasure of motherhood. Am I reading this too literally? Is there room for a Queen arc with infants in tow? Must the Hero arc be recycled? Or do we need a new arc here?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ll be addressing the Parent archetype, which takes place between the Hero and the Queen, in the third part of the series, where I talk about the Flat or “interstitial” archetypes that take place in between the transformative archetypes. I don’t specifically address Mother or Father archetypes in this series, but of course both are incredibly important and transformative archetypes. The archetypes presented in this series aren’t intended to be exclusive. They’re just a few among many.

  26. I think that the character Gloria Bonalde in Amazon’s version of “Jack Ryan” has an arc that is Queen-like. She’s a secondary character, so her beats don’t match all the beats that you have outlined, but her character seems to fit.

    She’s presented as a former history teacher and wife/mom who, at the time of the series, is running for President of Venezuela. The story presents her as an underdog candidate against a tyrannical and powerful incumbent. Her husband has been missing (presumed dead) for over a year, probably as a result of contravening the current President. It’s implied that she probably wouldn’t have gotten into the race were it not for her husband’s disappearance.

    She’s also portrayed as the populist candidate and the people of Venezuela–her voters–can be perhaps seen as her “children”. While she’s not ever all that reluctant (she’s a committed political candidate for the whole series) the series does show her having to respond to increasing threats to her and family’s safety, which she does by becoming MORE committed to her race and winning. Queen arc, maybe?

    Anyway, thanks for a great post!

  27. Reading about this Queen arc is really helping me see where my protagonist’s arc in the second book in my series is already strong and where I had intuitively seen what arc needed to come next for him. It’s also helping me build a more solid blueprint. Giving the example of Aragorn totally resonated because that is essentially what my character is doing…resisting leadership roles because he wants to make sure the ones he loves are safe, by protecting them himself. But like the main thrust of the arc says, love is no longer enough. It also helps that I’m writing a fantasy where he literally has to become king to protect his people haha.

Trackbacks

  1. […] has tips for clarity and creativity when writing multiple points-of-view, K.M. Weiland explores the Queen character arc, and Janice Hardy reveals a core question for getting to know your […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.