Hero’s Journey Continued
Act Two: The Departure
Approach to the Inmost Cave
This may be an actual location where terrible danger lies or may be the inner conflict that the Hero has been building up to facing. Final preparations are made at this point, during which more self doubt and fears may be uncovered. Time for reflection is made, where the hero looks back on all that has happened in order to bolster the courage needed to move forward.
The purpose here is to help the reader understand the magnitude of the ordeal that lies ahead; build the tension and the anticipation for this ultimate test.
This is where the Hero must face either an dangerous, actually physical test of some kind or a deep inner crisis in order to either personally survive or for the world as we know to continue to exist. This is usually where the Hero faces down the main antagonist and must draw on all of their skills and experiences of the quest in order to overcome this final challenge.
The Hero has defeated the enemy, survived death, finally overcome their greatest personal challenge. This achievement has transformed the Hero into a new state of being, usually as a stronger person and often with a prize.
This reward or prize comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be power or a secret revealed, reconciliation with a loved one, an insight of some kind, or an actual object of some importance. The purpose of the reward is to facilitate the Hero’s ability to return to the Ordinary World. It signals the last leg of the journey.
Act Three: The Return
The Road Back
This represents a kind of reverse of the Call to Adventure, now the Hero must return home with their reward. However, instead of facing trials and tribulations the Hero can anticipate acclaim, absolution, or even vindication or exoneration. Do not be fooled though – there is still a challenge to overcome. In the moments before committing to this return home the Hero must often at this point the Hero must choose between their own personal objective and that of a higher cause.
This is where the actual final climax of the story happens. The Hero will encounter their final and most dangerous challenge, a final battle that also represents something far greater than the Hero’s own existence. The consequences here will be far reaching, effecting the Ordinary World and the lives of those the Hero left behind there.
Failure will mean others will suffer and this raises the tension and the stakes for the Hero. It also elevates the Hero from the every man into something extraordinary but the journey to get their will keep the reader feeling the conflict is realistic, sharing also in the hopes and fears of the Hero. Ultimately, of course, the Hero succeeds and emerges reborn into the world.
Return with the Elixir
The final leg of the Hero’s journey where he actually returns to their home in the Ordinary World they had left behind. The Hero returns as a changed person though, one that has grown, learned many things, faced terrible danger, including death – all of which have now served to help the Hero look forward to the start of their new life back home. The return may also bring fresh hope to those originally left behind, providing perhaps a direct resolution of their problems, or perhaps a new way of living to be considered.
The final reward received by the Hero and brought home can be literal or metaphoric. Whatever you decide to make it, it ultimately is intended to represent three things – change, success, and proof the journey took place. Don’t forget that the return home also signals the need to resolve the story line of any other key players. Usually, this means the Hero’s doubters are ousted, the enemies are justly punished, and allies are rewarded. At this point in the story it is obvious to everyone that while the Hero has returned to the Ordinary World they have also changed it so that things will never be the same again.
The story and character arc have now completed the circle, returning from whence they began. The Hero’s Journey was a long one filled with trials and triumphs but now is done. You now have another tool in your toolbox for consideration when crafting your next story. For another shiny new tool, join us for Part 3: The Virgin’s Promise in our next installment of Writer’s Block.
Have you implemented the Hero’s Journey in any of your works? Tell us what did or didn’t work for you or how you expressed any of the 12 steps for your Hero.
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