When I was learning story structure, there was something about Hero’s Journey I just didn’t get. I didn’t really understand the idea of Returning with the Elixir.
This step of the process implied to me that there had to be something that the MC returned to the ordinary world with, and that implied that there was an ordinary world to return to. But what about in circumstances in which the ordinary world was rejected for the strange world? What if after having been kidnapped by pirates, then rescued, the MC decides to stay/return to the pirates as one of them because their life resonates more with the MC’s?
In circumstances like this, the Elixir is the message to be true to the self. Thus, the MC’s actions to stay with the pirates is a physical representation of this message, and the news of this action carries the message of self-truth, which is the elixir for those who hear the story.
The Elixir can represent the moral of the story, in some way. Sure it can also be a physical potion or dino DNA, ring, or car (you get the idea), but if it’s an object, it should represent something that ties to the theme of the story, and thus carry through the ‘moral’ or the main message of the story. In this way, it can contribute and assist those who are not the MC proper.
The Elixir is something for everyone, whatever ‘everyone’ might mean in the confines of your story. This might be the family, the neighborhood, the organization, the world, the village, etc.
Return with the Elixir Spread
For this spread you don’t need a signifier. Just focus on your story and the theme of your story. If you really feel you do need a signifier, return to the Theme Spread and select a card you feel represents the message of this spread.
Card 1: The Elixir
Pull 1 card for the Elixir itself. The card you pull might not directly represent the elixir itself, which alright. Keep in mind that the Elixir can’t just appear overnight. It’s got to be woven into the fabric of the story. However, if you haven’t thought of the elixir thus far, then this is time to make a note for the first round of editing.
While you can look for a physical object in this card to represent the elixir, it might be a more worthwhile exercise to consider the meaning or the energy of the card and apply it metaphorically to your elixir.
Card 2: The Downfall
With anything there is a dualistic nature to it. The Elixir, once having been brought must have a downfall. Of course this isn’t a catastrophic downfall that means action must be taken, but something that just gives it a bit of depth and dimension.
However, again, if you’re plotting a second book, the downfall could be catastrophic, and could help lead you into that book.
Card 3: Biggest Takeaway
Lessons are multi-faceted, and thus people will interpret things differently. So what is the over-all takeaway that the community will get from this Elixir. Is is a beacon of hope? Is it courage? Is it connectedness? Is it strength?
Card 4: Conflict of Community and MC
As demonstrated in Card 3, people interpret things differently. The multi-dimensionalness not just of the Elixir, but of your MC will mean that there are different meanings that resonate to the MC. Card 4 represents a conflicting view the MC has of the Elixir to that of the view of the community. So, for example, if the community interprets the elixir to mean strength in unit, the MC might see a dangerous side to this strength.
This card should be considered with the downfall. Again, keep in mind that this is at the end of your story, and thus either needs to lead the way into another book or needs to be resolved within the following pages. If nothing else, it needs to be something small enough that it doesn’t need to be resolved.
Card 5: Character Growth
Card 5 represents how the Elixir corresponds to the character growth of the MC. The whole story, while having a larger plot, boils down to how the MC grows, and thus, the Elixir should contribute to this growth in some way.
Card 6: Theme
The final card represents how the Elixir contributes to the theme of the story. This should be similar to the Biggest Take away, but will also take the representation of the Elixir a level deeper.
Endings can be complicated. I find they’re mostly complicated because suddenly I want to add things that haven’t been mentioned or brought up earlier in the story. That’s completely fine. This is where a writing journal specific to your project comes in handy. You can make notes to yourself regarding what needs to be smoothed out during the editing process.
The key to writing a first draft is knowing that you can patch details, scenes, characters, objects, whatever, into a story whenever and however you want. Your editing process is what’s going to smooth it all out and get it to make sense.
If you find that at no point has there been a love interest and that at the end of the story your character needs to get the guy who hasn’t existed up to yet, then write the ending with the guy, then after you’ve written the final scene of your first draft, begin your editing and start weaving the guy into the story as you edit.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is completely workable.