Story Structure #25: Act III, Stage 12: Return with the Elixer

Time to bring the boon back to the Ordinary World. New life – for the Hero, for his world – is ever changed. The Ordinary World is no longer as Ordinary.

Return with the Elixer

  • Tying up loose ends – closing the circle
    • New questions OK, but all old must be resolved, or at least restated
    • Circular Form – narrative returns to starting point (full circle)
      • Happy endings
    • Open-Ended Form – story-telling goes on after book is over – leave conclusions to readers
      • Posing new questions
      • Imperfect endings – realism – challenge cultural assumptions
  • Return is last chance to touch readers’ emotions – Do it intentionally!
    • Satisfy them, or
    • Provoke them
  • Needs some unexpected – twist – misdirection
  • Reward and punishment doled out – poetic justice
  • Elixer – what does Hero bring from Special World to Ordinary World to share?
    • Literal or metaphoric, but sharing is needed for a true Hero
    • Hero shares the fruits of his quest
      • With others in the Ordinary World
      • With readers, or
      • With both
    • Love, responsibility, wisdom, clarity, experience, money, fame, thrill…
  • Pitfalls of the Return – Avoid these!
    • Unresolved subplots – all need to be acknowledged or resolved in Return
      • All subplots should have at least 3 beats (scenes) distributed throughout, one in each act
        • Their resolution is found here
    • Too many endings – KISS – pick an ending, go with it
    • Abrupt ending – need emotional space to decompress
    • Lack of FOCUS!
      • Answer questions raised in Act I and Tested in Acts II and III
      • Did you ask the right dramatic question?
      • Keep theme consistent
    • Lack of Punctuation – ., ?, !, … End with one (strong!) – even if it’s a ‘.’

That’s it. We’ve come to the end. Can you believe it? Whirlwind tour of the Hero’s Journey complete. Next time we’ll wrap things up regarding Christopher Vogler’s model. Stay tuned!


A printable version, for your reference, can be found here: Stage 12: Return with the Elixer

To view a chronological listing of the posts in this series, continue below:

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