Lately I’ve been thinking about the section of my current project I think needs the most work. My second to last chapter is what the monomyth of story structure calls the “Road Home”. The hero/heroine is between the final battle/climax and the true dénouement of happily ever after. It is the point after accomplishing the mission where the character(s) must prepare to return to the
everyday world. This can be a hasty flight, another battle or simply a safe step in the final part of the journey. Some examples would be the time period in The Wizard of Oz between killing the witch and returning to Kansas. Dorothy had to face Oz, find the truth, be left behind and get the final boon from Glinda. If she had given up at this point, the happily ever after would never have come. In modern horror movies, this is when the psychopath gets back up after everyone thought he/she was killed by the hero/heroine. Another battle occurs in which the hero/heroine uses what they’ve learned to put the killer down for good…or the evil escapes for the next book/movie. As Joseph Campbell himself put it “It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.”
When writing my original road home, there were far more trials and tribulations I wanted to include here. New people and enemies block my characters from their final escape and a literal blocking from the final threshold to return to the world. But I was approaching my self-made deadline. I needed to get through it and, anyway, hadn’t my characters been through enough? Didn’t they deserve an easy ride home from nearly dying so many times?
Wrong! There is never too much for characters to go through. After all, how can they prove their worth if I refuse to continue to make their lives a living hell? So I am throwing out about twenty-five pages. Completely throwing out and starting over on them. Before I only put two huge forces in their way and let them easily talk their way around it. I had spent half the book building up how massive and paranoid these groups were, and they’re going to simply let my characters waltz by with a song and a smile. Wrong again!
Now I am outlining what will probably end up being another two chapters, one per group, for my characters to maneuver around or there will be death. Death that is as real as when they faced the final antagonist only a chapter before. They will be boarded, and there will be fireworks, I promise. This will set these bigger characters up nicely for the next couple of books, and outlining this is helping me form scenes for the sequels at the same time. It is a lot of work, but will make a much stronger story and an ending to give my readers the bigger payoff they deserve.