Character Development

The Hero’s Journey: The Return Part 3: Return with the Elixir


The hero has survived both the Ordeal and the Resurrection; he has lived through death. Now the hero gets to return to his starting place, go home, or continue the journey. The hero will now proceed with an awareness that they are commencing a new life that will never be the same.

Return with the Elixir

A true hero will bring something back from the special world to share with others. Something that may even have the power to save a wounded land, or bring order and prosperity. At the very least, he’ll implement change in his daily life, and use the lessons he’s learned on the journey to heal wounds.

Story Forms

There are 2 ways to end a story. There’s the circular ending and the open-ended ending. The circular form of storytelling is the most common in Western culture, and offers a feeling of closure and completion. The open-ended story form, however, tends to leave unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts.

Circular Story Form

This is the most popular form of storytelling, where the story moves back to its original starting point, and leaves no question unanswered. A circular plot provides a way to tie up loose ends and make the story feel more complete.

Having the hero return to the starting point will give the audience a point of comparison. They will be able to see how your hero has changed, how the old world loods different now, and how far that hero has come. Once the hero has returned, some writers will put the hero through an experience that may have been impossible for the hero at the beginning of the story.

Open-Ended Story Form

With an open ending, there will still be a few loose ends. This means that the storytelling continues even after the story is over. This can leave a lot of room for speculation, allowing the story to go on in a number of ways. Open-ended storytelling does a better job of portraying the world as an imperfect place. Not all questions have an answer.

Functions of the Return

The Return with the Elixir is fairly similar to the Reward phase of the journey. Both phases follow a death and rebirth sequence, and both relay the consequences of surviving death. However, this part of the story is the writers last chance to relay emotion to the audience. Be sure to finish the story in a way that has an emotional impact on the audience.


A twist towards the end of a story can liven up an otherwise flat ending. Consider adding some sort of plot twist that will surprise the audience, adding some amount of excitement.

Reward and Punishment

Another function of the Return with the Elixir is to hand out any rewards and punishments that may be due. This will restore balance to the story, and give it a feeling of completion. Villains should fall to their ultimate fate, but they shouldn’t fall too easily. Their punishment should correlate directly with the sins they’ve committed, providing the story with a sort of poetic justice.

Hero’s should also get what they have earned. Their reward shouldn’t be too great. The gifts they receive should instead be directly proportionate with the sacrifices they have made. The hero may even be punished in the return, if they have made no progress or sacrifice, or if they have failed to learn any lessons from the journey.

The Elixir

The Elixir is the real key to writing a successful return. What will the hero bring back from his journey to share? And how will it benefit his ordinary world? Regardless of who the hero shares it with, the Elixir will prove that the hero actually undertook the journey, and that death can be overcome. The Elixir can be literal or metaphoric, but the hero should have something to bring back.

For more information, try reading:

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition


Joseph Campbell – The Hero’s Journey

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Posted by forgotmypen - May 27, 2012 at 11:55 pm

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The Hero’s Journey: The Return Part 2: The Resurrection


The Resurrection is a tricky part of the story, because the hero needs to experience another sequence of death and rebirth. Without this additional death and rebirth sequence, the story may not feel complete. This part of the story is most commonly referred to as the climax; the final and most dangerous encounter with death.

The Resurrection

The trickiest part about the Resurrection is demonstrating that the hero has been through another change. The writer must somehow show that the hero has been through a change, rather than just talking about it. Somehow, the writer has to show that the hero has been resurrected.

New Personality

The hero once again has to build a new self. Just as he had to change to enter the special world, he must change again to re-enter the ordinary world. This new personality should reflect what he once was, and all the lesson’s he’s learned on his journey.


A purpose of the resurrection is to cleanse the hero of death, and to remind him of lessons learned during the Ordeal.

Two Ordeals

It may seem confusing or pointless to have two ordeals in a story, but there is a point to it. Try thinking of these ordeals as a mid-term exam and a final exam. The Ordeal is like a mid-term exam, while the Resurrection is like a final exam. In the Ordeal, the hero must learn how to cope in the special world, in the Resurrection, the hero must learn how to put himself back into the ordinary world, carrying with him the lesson’s he has learned.

Physical Ordeal

The easiest way to think of the Resurrection is as the climax; the final confrontation with the villain of the story. The difference between this and the Ordeal is that the level of danger is usually on a larger scale. For instance, now it’s not just the hero that’s in danger, but the entire world.

Active Hero

The hero should be the most active character at this part of the story. Try to avoid the mistake of having an ally step in, this part is all about the hero. He needs to figure out how to save himself.

Tragic Heroes

In most stories, the hero dies and is reborn or resurrected at this point in the story. However, the case may be different with tragic heroes. The hero may actually die in this final confrontation. These tragic heroes are resurrected in one sense, in that they are usually remembered by the people they gave their life for.


Another way to execute the Resurrection is to give the hero a choice that will indicate if the hero really has learned the lesson of change. If it’s a difficult choice, it will test the hero’s values.


This is the climax of the story, therefore it should be the peak of excitement, drama, and tension in the story. In a way, it’s the highest point of the story.


This part of the story should bring a feeling of Catharsis, or an emotional breakthrough.

Character Arc

The Catharsis will also be the climax, or the highest point of the hero’s character arc. He has gone through a large, gradual change, and now is the point of the story where he really shows it.

Final Chance

This is the hero’s last chance to make a major change in his behavior. The hero may even move backward at this point, and disappoint those who are depending on him. However, a symbol of the resurrection may be when he changes his mind, takes up arms, and fights on.


The hero may have to provide proof of the special world in order for anyone to believe that he’s actually been there. Even if he knows the experience was real, it’s possible that no one else will believe him.


Sacrifice is a large part of the Resurrection. Something of the hero’s must be surrendered in order to achieve the ultimate goal of the story, even his life.

For more information, try reading:

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition


Joseph Campbell – The Hero’s Journey

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Posted by forgotmypen - May 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

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The Hero’s Journey: The Return Part 1: The Road Back


The hero must now make a choice. He has to decide if he wants to stay in the special world or go back to his ordinary world. While the special world may have its charms, it’s rare for the hero to decide to stay there. Most will elect to begin the journey home, some will take on a brand new destination.

The Road Back

This part of the story represents the resolve the hero has to return to the ordinary world. He’ll want to put the lessons he’s learned to use.


The hero has just finished celebrating, and he has to re-dedicate himself to the journey. The hero is currently in a place of comfort, and he must now pry himself away from it. He must remind himself of  his ultimate goal, and cross another threshold. This new threshold may cause of change of focus for the story. Nevertheless, the hero has to work up the motivation to cross it.


If the hero did not completely defeat the villain, the villain may come back angry, and even stronger than before. This will eventually result in a sort of “final battle” and a climax to the story.

The Chase

The hero may be forced to leave the special world because of a chase that ensues after the hero defeats the villain in the Ordeal.


A chase scene can ensue because the villain attempts to escape. In this scenario, the hero(s) are doing the chasing.


The hero may experience a number of setbacks and challenges on his journey home, as if his luck has been reversed. These challenges may even appear to doom the adventure, as if the hero won’t be able to attain his goal and make it home after all.


For more information, try reading:

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition


Joseph Campbell – The Hero’s Journey

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Posted by forgotmypen - May 21, 2012 at 4:25 am

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