Are you ready? Your hero has had highs, lows, wins and losses. Currently, he’s lost something important, but gained not only his original goal to his quest, but a sense of having grown. Now, of course, he’s on his way back where it all started. So, what else is there to do? Why…kill him, of course.
The next section of the Hero’s Journey is called The Resurrection: It is your overall CLIMAX of the story (For romancers, it’s the internal conflict climax).
“Just as heroes had to shed their old selves to enter the Special World, they must now shed the personality of the journey and build a new one that is suitable for return to the Ordinary World. It should reflect the best parts of the old selves and the lessons learned along the way.”
Remember that no one takes an adventure without being changed by it. So also must a hero accept the best part of his strengths and purge the extra fat to his character. This is generally considered a clensing. Free the hero from the smell (pain or guilt) of death but retain lessons learned in the ordeal. In many books and movies, it’s the part where a hero accepts his responsibility for the things he’s done wrong, but stops self-punishing and gets on with it.
What should happen next is the giant, awful, absolutely worst thing that can happen to your hero. the 2nd Great Ordeal: “Heroes must be tested one last time…To learn something in a Special World is one thing; to bring the knowledge home as applied wisdom is quite another.”
To paraphrase the great Julia Quinn’s book, “The Viscount Who Loved Me”, Anthony Bridgerton’s worst fear is that he will die before he turns 39. The greatest tragedy of such a short life would be to fall in love and leave someone behind when he goes. Still, he has a title to think of and so he must go a wifing. Now, fast forward to his 1st ordeal. He’s fallen in love with his wife. This is horrible. It’s frightening. He runs from her and gets drunk for a few days, even argues with her without telling her the truth. This is a terrible thing he has done…but eventually he comes to realize his life is so much better, so much more worth living, with his wife in it. Determined to tell her his feelings and apologize for being such an idiot, he races home by way of the park…and begins his second great ordeal, one far worse than the first practice round. He witnesses a carriage accident, unable to do anything to but watch as it crashes and flips…with his wife buried beneath it.
So, I suppose, the first ordeal is kicking a man in the teeth. The second ordeal would be kicking him in the balls. “(T)he difference between this and previous meetings with death is that that the danger is usually on the broadest scale of the entire story. The threat is not just to the hero, but to the whole world…the stakes are at their highest.”
It’s got to hurt worse, be worse, have more horrible side effects and trample the hell out of his internal conflict. If you don’t do all of those things in the second ordeal, your hero or heroine simply isn’t suffering enough.
Key points in creating a suitably ripping Resurrection:
The Active Hero: Your hero should be active in dealing with this worst ordeal. “It’s best for the hero to be the one to perforn this decisive action; to deliver the death blow to the fear or the Shadow; to be active rather than passive, at this of all times.” No Deus Ex Machina, folks. The hand of God should not miraculously save him. You can get away with some help from a friend–or even an enemy–but it is your hero who needs to be the one to pull himself completely from the depths.
Movies often fail for screwing this up. “Mission To Mars” comes to mind. The ensemble cast decided to forgo a leading hero by repeatedly knocking them off. Tim Robbins gets toasted, leaving you with Gary Sinise, who’s idea of surviving the ordeal is to go into the light (which assumably is there to take him to another planet far, far away) so everyone else can possibly go home. He’s not delivering a death blow to anyone, but rather he’s taking it passively because he’s got no one to go home to. A hero should always come home, particularly in romances. If “M2M” had followed this particular tip, Sinise would have understood that his deceased wife would have wanted him to live a good life without her, outsmarted the alien technology and walked out of there with his boots on. But he did not learn any lessons from his journey and he died. Worse still, the movie bombed. It’s a prime example of building your viewers expectations…and failing them miserably.
Last Chance: “(This) is the hero’s final attempt to make this major change in attitude or behavior. A hero make backslide at this point… Hope for that character is temporarily dead, but can be resurrected if he changes his mind.” I expected to use this one as an example, but the movie “Dodgeball” most definitely works. Our hero has been confronted by his shadow, the evil owner of the megalithic gym across the street. With no way out of his predicament and after a failed trial of faith, he has given in and sold his precious gym. (Backslide) He, however, changes his mind when hope is reinstilled by a chance encounter with a truer hero, Lance Armstrong. Once that hope is reignited, the hero returns stronger and more determined to the fight. Why might we do this? To toy with our readers of course. Every readers has the secret fear that the book or movie they have paid for is going to crash and burn, leaving them disasatisfied and robbed. It never hurts to yank their cords a little, as long as we don’t hang ourselves with it in the process.
Watch Your Step: “(There) can be a potential misstep for a returning hero who may be walking a narrow sword-bridge from one world to the next.” The misstep can be physical, emotional or moral. A hero who doesn’t fully trust himself is prone to be shaky. Like the drug addict who takes one last taste before making the decision to continue on his way to a better life (“Trainspotting”), the foolish decision of a hero to try to save his wife at the possible risk of saving the world (“Stargate” or “Matrix Reloaded”) or the failing of a hero to let go of his reward when his life and the lives of his friends may be on the line (“Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade”). But each time, your hero will stay on the journey after this final temptation.
The False Claimant: “A last minute threat to the hero who has gone on a quest to achieve impossible tasks…questioning the hero’s credentials or claiming…(to have) achieved the impossible.” Sometimes, someone else–particularly a villain–will come out of the woodwork after the hero has come back, claiming he was the one who did all the work. There is the temptation to let him, of course, because your hero doesn’t need the glory as he once might have. Since this is my week for crazy examples, look no further than “Balto”, where the bad guy returns prior to the other sled dogs and accepts praise from his peers as he lies about having tried desperately to save the medicine he should have returned with. He is buffetted and treated well for trying, when truthfully, he has sabotaged the mission and put all the children of the town at risk.
Proof: “Providing proof is a major function of the Resurrection stage…not being believed is a perennial problem of travelers to other worlds.” Sticking with “Balto”, our stedfast hero has pulled himself from the brink, saving his fellow dogs and the medicine, using his special skills to lead them home with the medicine as proof of his miraculous journey. Proof can be offered or requested in many forms; demeanor, words, gifts, scars. Members of The Ordinary World aren’t going to be easy to convince, so be sure your proof is incontrovertible. Emotions can be such currency, particularly honesty. A hero who can apologize is one who has proven his growth.
Other aspects of proof are:
Sacrifice: “Something must be surrendered, such as an old habit or belief.”
Incorporation: “(A)n opportunity for a hero to show he has absorbed, or incorporated, every lesson from every character….he has made the lessons of the road part of his body.”
Change: “The higher dramatic purpose of the Resurrection is to give an outward sign that the hero has really changed. The old self must be proven to be completely dead, and the new self immune to temptations and addictions that trapped the old form.”
Some of the following may happen to your character in the Resurrection. Fill in all that apply or add new ones.
Showdowns: “A showdown pits hero and villains in an ultimate contest with the highest possible stakes…” “Quick & The Dead” anyone?
Death of Tragic Hero: “Often it is the villains who die or are defeated, but some tragic heroes actually die at this point.” Resurrection comes in loving memory of survivors who remember his lessons. Again, remember the movie “Sommersby”. The whole town he saved remembers him and is rebuilding because of his sacrifice. This does not apply to the “Mission To Mars” example because no one in that movie ever managed to learn a lesson.
Choice: “(A) climactic choice among options that indicates whether or not the hero has truly learned the lesson of change.” Though it pains a great many to admit it, “Matrix Revolutions” is a wonderful example of this. Neo, the Hero, is master of the Matrix in many ways, determined not to be a tool of it because he can bend it to his will in most cases. While he exercised his choice to maintain his life with his mate instead of sacrificing himself for the “benefit” of Zion because the terms were horrific, ultimately, he sacrifices himself anyway, when the terms are optimal. He doesn’t save his own life by any means, but the way he chooses to spend it is most important.
(Sidenote: Mind you, Revolutions didn’t sit well with American audiences because we never like our hero to die at the end. But as far as the Journey was concerned, it was the proper path to take.
If you get time, rent “The Butterfly Effect” and compare the theatrical ending with the directors cut. Theatrically, the hero survives and while it would satisfy the happy enders, it does not fully sit with the lessons being taught in the rest of the film. The Director’s cut, while sad, shows the true meaning of choice and sacrifice, as well as a lesson being learned by the hero.)
Types of Climax: Choose which applies to your story and fill in answers. (I hope you all appreciate how hard I’m working not to make dirty jokes here.)
The Quiet Climax: “A quiet climax can give a sense that all the conflicts have been harmoniously resolved and all the tensions converted into feelings of pleasure and peace.” Comedies and lighter stories generally come to this kind of climax. The Blue Moment instead of the Black, resolved with little scarring and generally everyone alive.
Rolling Climaxes: “Individual subplots may require separate climaxes…The hero may experience a climax on different levels of awareness in succession, such as mind, body and emotion.” Romancers tend to love this type. It’s what we dooo, darlink! First we have the external climax. Then we have the Internal climax. Then we have the happy ending stage. Climax, climax, climax. We require these because we tend to set a few more goals per story than the average work of fiction, which will have one hero to follow for the most part, while romances generally require two–hero and heroine. Then, of course, we like to make things good and complicated by intertwining and off-setting our climaxes. One hero’s triumph can often be the heroine’s external conflict climax. Ask yourself if your climaxes are happening at the same time and why. The only one that should be simultaneous (as in, the same situation involving the heroine and hero where they are both happy at the resolution) is the happy ending. If they are aligned anywhere else…you have a conflict problem and you just might do yourself–and them–a favor by changing things up.