The Heart of Darkness

I’ve just re-read The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson and while the readers among you probably won’t have heard of it, the writers among you most probably have. It’s an exploration of the arc of a specific type of story. The arc of a person coming to grips with who they really are, what they really want, and whether they are prepared to sublimate that want to fit in with the expectations of others, or whether to break free of those expectations and allow themselves to fulfil their own destiny.

The book discusses various archetypal characters, and our mythological and folklore basis for these types of stories, but what came to my mind on this read through of the work was the various ways our characters can face a heart of darkness.

I’m all for the action-packed, butt-kicking kind, but this book reminds me that that isn’t the only type there is. We can also look into our own heart and find darkness, or in the ones closest to us. And sometimes that’s a lot scarier. And more interesting.

I love a heroine (or hero) who faces their darkest fears and overcomes them. I like writing about it myself. In the book I just finished, which is due out sometime next year, BANQUET OF LIES, my heroine has a very real enemy, but she internalises the fear she feels for him, and overcomes it, using her background in fairy tales and folklore. I made up a fairy tale which she tells to other characters in the story, and found it very satisfying and cathartic. A truly heroic act doesn’t necessitate that your heroine (or hero) has to be an ass-kicking karate pro to pull it off.

So, which great heroines can you think of that faced their darkest fears and triumphed – in film or book?

About Michelle Diener

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction and fantasy. To find out more about her and her novels, you can visit her website.
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10 Responses to The Heart of Darkness

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    I saw a clip from 1962 movie The Miracle Worker, which is the story of Anne Sullivan “as she struggles to teach the blind and deaf [and mute] Helen Keller how to communicate.” (from IMDb) Lately, I’ve seen so many movies with chase scenes or fight scenes that actually bore me. But in the two scenes I saw, it was hard to breathe, I was so tense for both the teacher and the girl. And when Anne Sullivan was alone after the tense scenes, I could feel her emotions through the screen. Her desperation and her need and her own darkness. Anne Bancroft deserved the Oscar she won for that role.

  2. Misty Evans says:

    I recently watched Hereafter with Matt Damon in it. Both he and the heroine had big life and death issues to overcome…and there wasn’t one car chase scene! It was very moving and I’m still thinking about it and questions it poses about people who claim to have experienced the afterlife.

  3. Amy Atwell says:

    I’m a big fan of The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. Oh, and heavens! The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a fabulous book that’s not action-packed, but the heroine’s journey to resolve the family issues centering on her twin sister is amazing and brilliant. I love a good cathartic read!

  4. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Michelle,
    I’m lousy at coming up with examples. But I’ll agree with the other two that sometimes the best scenes have nothing to do with car crashes or car chase scenes. I’m going to have rewatch The Miracle Worker and then watch Hereafter!

    I do like movies/books that twist things around to make you think. I loved Inception!
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …Maddy’s Floor is on Free for 2 days!

  5. One of my favorite shows was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And yeah, the butt-kicking was great, but like you said there was an emotional depth to the stories that really pulled at me. There was always an internal struggle going on between one or all characters in every episode and that was what made it really great.

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