Writing Believable Female Characters Part 2: Finding the Story

Finding the story is one of the top priorities you should have on writing a compelling character. When we choose the story it is usually a topic close to our hearts…and when we are writing it, we create a kind of bubble that surrounds us and none can really understand the process. That is why I am here to give you a hand and we will look into 8 heroin story types according to Helen Jacey, which should make your process clearer.


From my own experience sticking to the one-story is quite a challenge, because along the way, facing the obstacles, I often have doubts to continue. For this reason, I write my future self a letter at the beginning stages, where I am still all keen, to the moments when I will struggle and I remind myself WHY I wanted to write about it in the first place. I highly recommend this tactic to all creators because writing and all the creative process are unstable, and you will face your inner demons. It is really a one-man journey.

As Helen Jacey said (author of The Woman in the Story) :

A Heroine´s Story is her emotional and physical process of experiencing a certain situation that unfolds in a narrative.



A heroine story type is a way of breaking down your heroine´s emotional and physical process of her situation into a recognizable type. All your characters, main and secondary, will have a story type of their own. They don´t have to be the same as the heroines, and it is probably better if they aren´t. Story types can work in many different structures and any genre of film. It is a good idea to try to choose a story type early. Your heroine also might jump from one story type to another in the course of the film.


1. Path to Wholeness

The heroine feels emotionally incomplete or wounded, might be completely abused or mentally ill, could be recovering from illness, and might feel totally betrayed or let down by love and she badly needs to recover. Her story focuses on her experience of becoming whole or trying to.

Examples: Lost in Translation, Under the Tuscan Sun, Boys don´t cry, In Her Shoes


under the tuscan sun

2. Tests of Love

The heroine is absorbed by finding love or experiencing problems in her relationship. Love problems can range from anything as big as a war to her own unresolved fear of abandonment. Epic love stories, fall into this type, as do intense dramas.

Examples: When Sally Met Harry, Could Mountain, English Patient, The Edge of Love


3. Group Endeavor

Group of heroines who depend on each other or live together as a community have an experience together in which they are interdependent. It may be a holiday, a quest, or coming to terms with a change from the outsides.

Examples: Calendar Girls, The Virgin Suicides, Female Agents


the virgin suicides

4. Quest

The heroine gives herself a quest or mission or is given one by an external factor or person. She spends her time pursuing the quest, even if it ends up having a different outcome than she expected

Examples: Fly Away Home, Legally Blond, Rendition

5. Survival

The heroine´s life, or those of the people she loves, is under threat. All her energies revolve around staying alive and outwitting or defeating the forces of destruction. Survival can include emotional survival when the heroine´s whole identity is being savaged by another person

Example: Elizabeth, The Brave One, The Descent, Flight Plan


6. Wandering Woman

The heroine needs to keep moving. She= s essentially nomadic or naturally an outsider. Her story just might be another stop along the way of her life. She might have found herself stuck and needs to move on but can´t. She doesn’t feel the need to be whole but her eyes might be opened to other needs as she travels.

Examples: Hideous Kinky, Mona Lisa Smile, Chocolat, Alice Doesn´t Live Here Anymore



7. Rites of Passage

The Heroine is dealing with a major transition that propels her into a new stage of her life. These can be pregnancy, abortion, motherhood, the empty-nest syndrome, step motherhood, loss of a child, marriage, divorce, and menopause

Examples: Thirteen, Stepmom, 10 Things I have About You



8. The Talent

The heroine has a talent that is central to her sense of identity. In pursuing her talent the heroine encounters many different experiences and obstacles.

Examples: Frida, La Vie en Rose, Amelia, Sylvia

la vie en rose


If you are a character-driven writer there might be one particular type you resonate with, however, if you are idea or concept-driven you may not relate so easily. There is no right or wrong. As your story will develop you may be clearer on what type you actually want to focus on. If you really can´t decide ask your heroine what she is thinking. Sit down and write a stream of consciousness from her point of view.
Let me know in the comments below what story you are working on.

On Key

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