Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Hero's Journey - Return With the Elixir

I know, I’ve really been dragging my feet writing these last few Hero’s Journey entries, and this one was no exception. It’s bad for me, being a blogger and taking forever to write up some really meaty material that has meant a lot to me in the process of writing and rewriting my novel. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up post to this part of my blog where I dish on all the mushy stuff I want to say about The Hero’s Journey, or even a bit about the archetypes found in the course of the Journey, but right now it’s time to delve into this one final stage of the grand epic. That’s right, it’s time to Return With the Elixir!

The Return stage is essential to resolving a story, because everyone has to go somewhere once all is said and done, and more often than not it’s a return to the Ordinary World. Harry Potter returns to 4 Privet Drive to live with the dreadful Dursley family, and Percy Jackson returns to his loving mother and another school year. This brings the story full circle and offers an excellent opportunity to illustrate just how your Hero has changed and grown on his Journey. Showing how people react to your protagonist in this moment as a contrast to how they reacted to him at the start of the story will do more to convince your reader that there was character development than if you simply state in the narrative that he’s different. Remember, the key is to show, not to tell.

If your Hero was sent out to find something or someone, this is where he returns triumphant with that object or person of note to transform the Ordinary World into something better than it was before. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the Hero doesn’t return to the Ordinary World. Sometimes, for whatever reason, he stays in the Special World. (Can anyone say sequel? How about series?) In this case, the narrative, not the character, returns to the Ordinary World to illustrate how the absence of the Hero is felt by those he left behind. If there is a sequel to this story, the Special World then becomes the Ordinary World and vice versa, shifting the status quo of your narrative dramatically.

Let’s wrap up Rob’s story using this stage of the Hero’s Journey. His Return With the Elixir takes the shape of his novel, the Elixir he’s been seeking for the longest time. With that monumental accomplishment in hand, he returns to his life feeling more empowered than ever. He knows he has what it takes to write a novel-length work, and he knows he can see it through to the end. That confidence and self esteem bleeds through in his demeanor. No longer is he blindly stumbling through life dreaming about what could have been or might be. He’s been there, he’s done it, and he returns to the people who know him revitalized. He seems more energetic and vibrant, his excitement about writing infectious to those around him. He rejoins his friends at the gaming table, but his creative energy is no longer bound solely to that arena. Now his thoughts turn toward the next great adventure: Editing his first draft for publication.

And that, my loyal followers, completes our exploration of the Hero’s Journey! As a reminder, this is by no means a complete analysis of the Journey. I’ve hit the highlights here, but there are many books that delve into these sections in greater detail than I’d care to inflict upon you in the pages of my blog. If you’re inclined to learn more, however, I’d suggest reading the original material by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces or, if you’d prefer something more modern and not as dry, Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. And, as always, if you have questions or comments about any stage of the Hero’s Journey, please leave them in the comments section below!

One more thing: Always remember that the Hero’s Journey is never really over. The ending of one story is but the beginning of the next.

Until next time, safe Journey!

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