What his mind can't remember, her heart can't forget...
6) The Reward
Our next phase, Return With The Elixir, is actually broken into two different sections. The first part is what is often called Reward or Seizing the Sword.
Basically, your poor haunted character has overcome personal flaws and probably lost their lady love by this point, all so that they can achieve their goals. They’ve lost a lot, but this is the part where they finally achieve something important–not the emotional GOAL, mind you, but something truly good.
If it’s not worth the journey so far, it will make them feel they’ve achieved something. A hero walking away from a deal that would have made him millions, but he’s learned from his mistakes that his soul is not for sale. He walks away with his self-respect. Your hero has now achieved “change” in some way. They will not be weak while they do this.
According the “The Writer’s Journey”, The Reward is “an active movement of the hero who aggresively takes possession of whatever was being sought in the Special World.” Think Arthur pulling Excaliber from the stone. Or “Romancing the Stone”, when they finally find that big giant emerald. It looks to the character like they’ve reached the end of the journey (for good or for bad) but you the AUTHOR need to keep in mind that there are still big hurdles to jump. Big, ugly, painful ones.
Until the very end of your book, you need to keep one highly important pattern in place: The second your hero relaxes or has anything good happen…kick him in the teeth.
For now, you’re in the relax and breathe moment, which your hero (and your reader) deeply need after the emotional and physical excitement of the last section. Remember the movie “Twister” when the hero and heroine get caught on that mountain top for a giant argument with an F3 tornado. Physically and emotionally, all is drained. They head to a nearby town to eat and rest and try to absorb all that has happened. While there, they realize the failure of their design and the hero is freed from his fiancée. This is a great example not only of the things they must do to come down from those heights, but also in foreshadowing the trial ahead.
It’s checklist time again. Check to see if your scenes are making the most of the Reward Stage for pacing:
Celebration: Often involves food, but much energy has been used, this is a place to replenish. Sorry to keep coming back to Star Wars, but it’s a text book example of the Hero’s Journey. Consider the celebration with the Ewoks in “Return Of The Jedi”. They have fought a small ground battle and reuinited. Tomorrow is the giant battle, but for now, everyone is feeling pretty good about themselves. You’ve got them right where you want them.
Campfire Scenes: “Heroes sometimes turn back and remember aloud what got them to this point…In these quiet moments of reflection or intimacy, we get to know the characters better.” It’s a great time for secrets to come out and be accepted.
Love Scenes: “They don’t really deserve to be loved until they have shown their willingness to sacrifice.” Dare I invoke the unholy name of “Starship Troopers”? Our hero has lost all chances with the woman of his dreams who has married someone else. He faces battle, having lost men and friends as gorily as possible, but come out alive on the other side. Now Diz–the long standing buddy/non-girl–is finally seen for the hot chick she is and gets to sleep with Casper Van Dien. That’s what you call Seizing The Sword, all right.
Taking Posession: The hero takes “possession of whatever she came seeking.” Sometimes a hero will steal it, when it’s not given despite the price being paid. Beware, though, there is always a heavy price to pay later. Again, see the sad fate of Diz above. She stole the physical attention of the hero–whom she loved and frankly deserved more than the lame cow of an ex he never got over–but Diz doesn’t quite make it to the next battle. Our hero ‘s main goal was always the true love and tried to convince himself that wanting Diz was the same–or better–than loving the Cow. He takes what she offers, but the price for that temporary fling is that Diz bites it. Or rather…gets bit. In half.
Initiation: “Heroes emerge from their ordeals to be recognized as special & different.” This leads to a hero having new clarity–perceptions, self-realization or epiphany. Others will see the hero differently as well. Ahh, Luke Skywalker, I knew you well. Give the guy a new set of clothes after a fight with Darth Vader and suddenly, he’s a new man, far FAR from the whiny whelp with potential just half a film before. Now sleek, dangerous and smart enough to mastermind the storming of Jabba The Hut’s enclave, Luke’s initiation was freeing Han Solo and reuniting his buddies. He’s a Jedi now and everyone around him knows it.
Distortions: Or instead, “Heroes may suffer from an inflation of ego…overestimating their own importance or prowess after a duel w/ death.” Or “underestimate the significance of the…ordeal” and “deny that anything has happened.”
A great example of this happening to a character is to Rick O’Connell in both “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns”. In the first film, they’ve managed to survive multiple plagues and battles with the reforming Mummy. He’s positive that with his own will and skills, he can defeat the bad guy and save the girl. His reward for surviving the attack at the museum against was finding the answer to defeating the Mummy (or at least, where the answer can be found). His distortion was thinking that he can do it all himself…and he’s wrong. The price he pays is losing the heroine to his enemy.
Rick’s distortion in the second Mummy film is different, but with similar results. Having just made it through the deadly jungle and run his child ahead of the sunris on Ahn’shr, he’s feeling pretty good about himself and his ability to keep his family alive during this adventure. He’s saved and reclaimed his son, only to leave his wife unprotected. Again, he has lost the heroine by underestimating the significance of their entire journey and believing in himself too much.