Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hero's Journey - Reward

We’re finally here! It’s been a long, hard road up to this point, but the payoff is worth it. Through all the battles fought and won, friendships forged and villains thwarted, we’ve finally arrived at the part that makes it all worthwhile – The Reward!

Joseph Campbell calls this stage Seizing the Sword, in honor of all the stories of dragons slain for their treasure. The Hero conquers the Shadow and wins his reward, which may include a magical sword, a grateful kingdom and a very pretty damsel. The exact reward can be anything – a hidden treasure, a captured princess, a secret weapon. In spy movies, it’s usually some key to saving (or, in the wrong hands, destroying) the world. In romances, it’s some hottie (guy or girl) who the Hero has been trying to woo. It can be anything from the Holy Grail to a childhood toy. The one thing they all share in common is that they were fiercely sought after by the Hero. This is also where the characters can relax for a moment and savor their victory. We won the day, so let’s party! This is where the trumpets sound, campfires are stoked, and everyone can relax around the holochess table on the Millennium Falcon while Han takes them to lightspeed.

Story-wise, the Reward stage is where your readers can breathe a huge sigh of relief. We’re not at the climax yet, but after the harrowing battle of the Ordeal, there should be a way to relieve all of that pressure with a payoff. Don’t cheapen the victory over the Ordeal! This is what the whole story has been building toward all this time, and while there could be a strong lesson to be learned in the Hero not getting everything he wants, he’d better get something to show for all his pain and suffering up to now. This is as necessary for the readers as it is for the characters. While the story isn’t over yet, there should be some time to linger in the feeling of accomplishment before launching into the next leg of the Journey.

Now, how does this apply to the ongoing tale of Rob’s Journey? His Ordeal is at an end. He’s got his first novel written – it’s time to celebrate! As the winners of National Novel Writing Month gather to share their novels and the stories behind them, he joins in the revelry, proud to have made it to the winner’s circle. It’s cathartic for him to relax with others who have just made the same marathon run for the literary finish line. For some, this is something they do every year. Others have only completed their first, same as him. And among them all, only a handful dream of having their tale published. Rob’s novel may be complete, but his story is not yet over...

Neither is ours. True, we’ve come a long way, and we’ve reached the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but where do you go from there? Home, of course! When next we return to the Hero’s Journey, we’ll be packing up to take The Road Back.

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