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.
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 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.
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