The Hero’s Journey: Initiation Part 3: The Ordeal
The Ordeal is the main event of the story, and a heightened point in the hero’s character arc where he transcends who he once was, and truly grows.
Death and Rebirth
Death and Rebirth is the primary point of The Ordeal. The concept is simple: The Hero has to die in order to be reborn. In some way, the hero should face death or something similar to it. This might include the end of a relationship, the death of personality, or the loss of a job.
The hero should survive this death and become literally or symbolically reborn. After this point, the hero will have passed his final test, and he can receive the reward.
After the hero experiences The Ordeal, he will come home a changed man. No hero can come so close to death without being changed in some way.
Placement of The Ordeal depends on the storyteller. The most common placement is towards the middle of the story, but it may also be placed near the end. It’s completely a matter of choice.
A witness (or witnesses) is often involved with the death and rebirth process. This witness should see the death of the hero (or what appears to be the hero’s death), momentarily mourn, and then celebrate when he sees the hero rise again.
These witnesses are solely for the audience, so they can identify, and feel the pain of death with them.
The death of the hero should have an emotional impact on the audience. The thought of the hero’s death will depress the audience, and bring them down for a moment. When they find that the hero
]has survived, their emotion will skyrocket upward. They will feel elated and satisfied, if the “death and rebirth” sequence is done correctly.
The Ordeal often involves facing an opposing force, usually in battle. This opposing force could be a villain, or it could even be a force of nature. This force should represent some of the hero’s fears and unlikable qualities.
Death of the Opponent
Sometimes, in the hero’s symbolic “death and rebirth”, the villain (or opponent/opposing force) will actually die. In this case, the hero will likely have to deal with other opposing forces on the road home.
Escape of the Opponent
Sometimes, the opponent will escape and have to be dealt with later, usually towards the end of the story.
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