Bear with me while I go on a little bit of my own experience learning The Road Back. You can skip forward to the Road Back or further to The Spread. Dont’ forget to check out the Helpful Links at the bottom of the page, and leave a comment updating me on your WIP–I want to hear all about it!
When I waslearning story structure, I was a bit of a slacker when it came to reading. I generallyhad little interest in the end of the book once the Climax took place. I didn’treally care about how the loose ends were woven together, or how the MCreconciled their family issues—nope, I knew the baddy was defeated and I wascontent with that.
I was a lazy,lazy, lazy—but very prolific—reader.And as a result, it took me a really long time to understand how to end anovel. I had no examples to call on because I never read them.
I borrowed The Exorcist from my friend (author Jesse Orr) once, because it was his favorite book and I just had to read it. When I returned it, I said, ‘Meh, the ending was a bit crap. It just ended abruptly.’
‘It’s allin the epilogue,’ he told me.
‘Oh that. Ididn’t read that.’
Whichsparked a whole debate about epilogues which I won’t get into—but I have opinionsunrelated to tarot regarding epilogues and prologues.
However,that book gave me exactly what I wanted—an end right after the Climax, and all the wrap-up in a ‘separate section,’so as to spare readers like me. Yet, I still wasn’t satisfied.
Because generallyI always felt that reading the Epilogue was optional, and didn’t contributemuch to the book, I didn’t read it, and thus, I felt unfulfilled because thestory didn’t wrap up.
All that tosay why it is so important to spend extra care on the Road Back after the Climaxof the story.
The Road Back
The RoadBack is when the MC has to return to normal life, whatever that might mean forthe MC. However, there is always a transition. If you look at story structureregarding just about any action/adventure plot, there is always something elsethat the MC has to face on the way back. However, whatever it is they do face isof course lesser than what they faced in the Climax.
Whateverordeals the Hero comes across during the transition back to ordinary life, itneeds to reflect any unresolved issues thus far.
Considerfor example in Back to the Future,Marty’s issue with being called ‘chicken,’ and never being able to let thatinsult go. In all honesty I can’t remember if he gets over his pride at the endof the series and learns to let it McFly (see what I did there?). But anexample of an ordeal on the road home might be to confront him with a similarrecurring issue in which he displays his growth and doesn’t feel the need to provehis worth.
In the first Hangover movie, Stu is in a controlling relationship which causes him constant stress. His ordeal on the road home is when his fiancé confronts him at the wedding and he shows his growth by standing up to her and leaving her. The confrontation is an example of a smaller ordeal, and how he reacts to it resolves one of the character’s problems.
Thus, this isn’t looking at the whole Road Back, per se, but istead looks at the loose ends that need to be adressed.
The Loose Ends Spread
Recall when doing your character development that you created certain flaws for your character. Likewise, there should be smaller problems within the character arch that need to be resolved at the end of the story.
This spreadis a small spread, but one that is to be repeated per each flaw/problem. Thisdon’t only need to be done with your MC, but with any characters that have anevolution within the story.
Of course, thisis only if it pertains to this novel. If you’re going on to write a sequel,then some of those problems might want to remain.
Yesterday we said would be the last time that you used your regular signifier for your MC. Return to that spread and select a card that shows the evolution of your MC, and use this as a signifier.
Card 1: CharacterFlaw/Subplot Problem
This cardis going to show you which character flaw or smaller problem in the plot thatneeds to be resolved for the novel to end. This will be your focal point forthis part of the reading.
Card 2: Ordeal
Card 2 inthe spread represents what the conflict or situation is that the MC has to dealwith in order to confront this flaw or problem.
Card 3: Resolution
The third Card represents how your character resolves this conflict. You do have a couple of options for this position:
- If you find that you want to continue on with this particular problem for the following book, you can read a reversal of this card as a ‘failed to resolve.’
- If you want this problem to resolve but cause another problem, you can pull an optional card and cross this card with it, referring to the system of the ‘Yes, but/No, and’ system.
Card 4: Growth
The final card of the spread is how the character has grown as a result of this situation. However, when considering this card, it must be linked back to the overall growth of the story. It wouldn’t make sense if an overly generous character–to the point of poverty–learned to say ‘no’ to someone who was to take advantage of their generosity, instantly turned into Scrooge incarnate. It has to be to the same level as laid out in the story.