Resurrection:  the return from the dead.

Although famous authors have played with the idea of resurrection, our protagonists don’t have to turn into zombies.  Neither do our antagonists.

Resurrection is not new life.  It is the reanimation of the old life, the former problem, the continuing central conflict of the entire story.

Stage 11 of the Archetypal Story Pattern is a dual resurrection.

Before we go into exposition, let’s look at three famous resurrection scenes from the world of film.

“What I tell you three times is true.” ~ “The Hunting of the Snark”, Lewis Carroll

Kill Bill

In Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, the bride is buried alive.  Grave-deep, encased in a pine wood coffin.  Her enemies believe she is “dead and buried” with no hope of resurrection.

Yet she wakes, assesses her situation, and implements a plan.  She punches through the soft pine then kicks and crawls out of the grave.  Her resurrection shocks an old man.

More shocks await the audience.

Her enemies have turned on each other.  The Black Mamba (Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver) killed the loyal brother Budd, and soon she is destroyed by the Bride (Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo) in a battle that was voted in 2005 as “Best Fight” at the MTV Movie Awards.

We are shocked when the Bride snatches out Elle’s remaining eye—just as Pai Mei snatched out her first one.

3 Lessons from Kill Bill

Lesson 1:  the Resurrection must shock.

Lesson 2:  the Resurrection, whether for the protagonist or the antagonist, must be parallel to another event in the story.  It should not be deliberately foreshadowed;  however, it should mirror the event.  In the audience’s afterthought, the parallelism will become a logical foreshadowing.

Lesson 3:  the Resurrection must present poetic justice.  Elle Driver killed Pai Mei, whom she hated because he snatched out her eye.  Beatrix Kiddo kills Elle Driver, not only in defense but also because Elle killed Pai Mei, whom Beatrix “loved”.

Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter’s Deathly Hallows part 2 gives us a resurrection of the protagonist after J.K. Rowling played throughout the entire series with the resurrection of the antagonistic force.

Because of the philosopher’s stone, Harry does not die.  In his Reward, he is re-united with Dumbledore and discovers victory is not only possible but nigh.  In the Resurrection stage, he returns to his body.  Voldemort is celebrating.  Hagrid is grieving.  Yet we the audience see the beginning tatters of the Death-Eaters’ collapse, as Draco Malfoy’s mother actually lies to Voldemort.

Her lie tells us that Voldemort is not omniscient.  Those who are not omniscient are also not omnipotent.

The mano y mano battle between Harry and Voldemort is intercut with scenes of Hermione and Ron tackling Nagini, the horcrux-holding python.  Hermione and Ron can seemingly do nothing against Nagini.  Harry seems equally matched to Voldemort, neither able to get an advantage over the other.

Enter Neville Longbottom.
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Neville kills Nagini

Two events are juxtaposed.  Neville’s unexpected defeat of the snake precedes Harry’s expected defeat of Voldemort.  Neville is the surprise in this parallel resurrection scene.  Nagini’s death receives our audience’s exultant shout while we merely celebrate Voldemort’s disintegration.  We glory in Harry’s power overwhelming Voldemort, but we are not punching the air in celebration.

3 Lessons from Deathly Hallows

Lesson 1A:  If the protagonist’s battle with the chief antagonist will contain no shock, then another character playing an unexpected role should step forward.

Lesson 2A:  The parallelism of the resurrection scene can be with other characters besides the protagonist or antagonist.

Lesson 3A:  The poetic justice occurs with Voldemort’s defeat and death.  The best part of this scene is his horrified look at the Elder Wand.  Now, at his end, he realizes it does not answer to him as he expected it would.  His richly-deserved death almost seems anti-climatic:  deserved yet subdued, pitiful while we feel no pity, almost beautiful in his dissolution.

Return of the King

Golem’s re-appearance in J.R.R. Tolkien’s culminating resurrection scene for The Return of the King is a necessary surprise.  The surprise occurs because Frodo and Sam left Golem behind.  Golem’s participation in this scene is a necessity because the Ring has finally corrupted Frodo’s intention.

Like Rowling’s Voldemort, Golem is a “dead” creature throughout the series.  He lived off the dead goblins who fell into the abysses of the Mines of Moria.  His old Hobbity self warred constantly with his evil self until the Hobbity self died completely, letting only the evil self alive.

His disappearance seemingly “removed” him from the immediate storyline.  Then he re-appears to fight Frodo in the lava-filled doom of Mount Mordor (just as Bilbo had his own mental battle with Golem in The Hobbit = parallelism!).

Because Golem once possessed his precious, he understands how to find a wearer of the Ring.  No one else in the series has understood this.  Yet, for the audience, it is still a shock when he leaps upon the invisible Frodo.  They fight, a staggering stumble of pummels and buffets on the edge of the rocky spit over the lava river.  The second shock occurs when Golem bites off Frodo’s finger to get the Ring.  He dances to his death.

And with the Ring’s destruction, Sauron’s entity is destroyed.  The trapped Eye of Sauron’s essence frenziedly tries to tear itself away from the destroyed Ring but cannot.

3 Lessons from RotK

Lesson 1B: Golem’s surprising return, his shocking ability to “see” Frodo as well as biting off his finger (mutilation to the hand is somehow more horrible than other grievous bodily harm).

Lesson 2B: Frodo and Bilbo had parallel battles, physical and mental, against Golem.  Bilbo outwits Golem;  Golem “defeats” Frodo.

Lesson 3B:  Golem dances as he falls to his death.  And with the Ring’s destruction, Frodo is returned to his “pure” self;  his innocent intent is resurrected.  Sauron bonded his essence to the Ring.  He believed in the Ring’s indestructibility.  With its destruction, he discovered he break the bond.

Four Compass Points of the Resurrection

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an old compass rose

The Resurrection requires from us writers four important points as we begin wrapping up our story.

Aim North = 1.

The protagonists face their own mortality, whether it is a brief brush or an imminent danger or an actual death.

How the protagonists confront death is the salient point.  Facing death reveals the extreme importance of the protagonists’ desire to achieve the ultimate goal that set them on this journey.

The goal may have changed.  The original desire has not.  The Dear may have changed—and should have.  The desire that fuels the old and new Dear will not have changed.

Contrast the Bride with Frodo. 

She is fully conscious;  he is under the influence of the Ring.  She is driven;  he becomes aimless.  She visits poetic justice twice upon Elle Driver:  the eye snatch and her presumed death from the viper she used to kill Budd.  Frodo receives no ironical justice:  Golem defeats him then falls to his death.  Frodo is ring-less and ring-finger-less.

Our protagonists’ honor and nobility shine through when they face their mortality and still plunge into the last battle.  Death may occur.  They willingly face it.  Why?  Their desired goal is more important than their own self.

Drive Southward to the Doom = 2

The antagonists face their own mortality.

To kill an antagonist who does not realize he is being killed creates a sense of futility.

And the antagonists’ response to impending death is diametrically opposed to the protagonists’ response.  The antagonists fear death.  Voldemort hid parts of his soul in the horcruxes then hid his horcruxes in a bid to live on and on and on.  Unlike the Energizer bunny, however, his life is more in danger because of his piecemeal soul.

Obsession and Fear

Golem’s obsession with his precious Ring is so powerful that he is blind to his own danger and death.  He “died” years and years before.  His obsession with the Ring gave him purpose.  Its loss restored him to the upper world.  The new ringbearer almost—almost!  What a pitiful word!—resurrected his humanity.  Only in Golem’s last blink does he recognize death is on him.  Then we see a brief glimpse of his terror.  In the next blink he disintegrates.

The death and destruction of Sauron’s Eye, however, gives us the essential realization of impending death.  The Eye’s frenzy becomes more powerful than Golem’s blink.

Head to the Expected East = 3

The Resurrection is both destruction and re-creation.

The antagonist is destroyed.  The antagonistic force is defeated.  The evil is stuffed into a coffin.

Writers who want a sequel need to take lessons from Tolkien and Rowling:  each book must have its own antagonist to be defeated while the series’ antagonist must be completely defeated in the final book of the series.

No hiding additional horcruxes.  Give the story up.

Love your protagonists too much to let them live happily ever after?  Start a new series.  Years on, with a completely different antagonist.

Re-creation is as important as destruction

Harry is his own self and more.  He breaks the Elder Wand and tosses it into an abyssal canyon (the film.  In the book, he restores it to Dumbledore’s tomb, still a severed connection).  Harry refuses to wield the great power gifted to him.  He refuses to allow power to corrupt him.  (Thank you, Lord Acton.)

Frodo’s own self is restored—yet wearing the Ring has also broken him.  He must leave with the last elves.

The Bride is now free to seek her daughter, restoring the connection and creating a future with her daughter.  Her battle with Bill is not titanic although it is matchless.  It allows the Elixir which is the last Stage of the Archetypal Story Pattern.

Skew West = 4

As noted in the lessons, the Resurrection must shock the audience.

Not with gore.  Not with a new twist.  A new twist only continues the story longer.

The shock must be something the audience didn’t anticipate yet in hindsight truly appreciates.  No foreshadowing for the shock.  We have to build the elements in such a way that we logically accept their occurrence even as we emotionally celebrate them.

This shock is particularly hard to write since the early-on Stage 2 set up our anticipation of the final battle.

Neville’s chopping off of Nagini’s head is the shock.  Voldemort ripped Neville’s “soul” away when he killed his parents.  Neville has had to rebuild his “soul”.  How fitting that Neville kills the last holder of Voldemort’s piecemeal soul. 

As for the audience, well, we anticipated Voldemort’s defeat.

Careful with Shocks

Knowing the antagonist will be defeated is not where the shock will occur.  Unless our audience is reading one of the so-called “edgy” new series in which the protagonist is killed.

(Killing the protagonist is not edgy, BTW;  it infuriates the audience.  It’s a cheap way to be edgy.  We writers are better than that.  Find another way.  Keep the audience reading to your next series.)

Quentin Tarantino gives us an unexpected relish with the eye-snatch.

Golem’s reappearance surprises.  The SHOCK occurs when he takes both ring and ring finger from Frodo.

And then we nod, at Neville, at the Bride, at Frodo.  Yes, that is symbolic parity.

Wrapping Up

Remember the 3 Lessons and the 4 Compass Points when constructing the ultimate battle scene of destruction and resurrection.  The expected and the unexpected will satisfy the audience.

Not only will they keep reading to the end of the book;  they will also buy the next and the next and the next.

Writing Story: 7 Questions to Start

Every man has three characters: that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has. ~ Alphonse Kerr

We start life as a tabula rasa.  Then we transform ourselves as we mature.

Who we are . . .

is not who we want to be . . .

and not who we should be.

All of us struggle with a duality, positive in conflict with negativity and only rarely in balance.  While we strive to improve, we are also tugged to wallow in a morass.

In the ancient monomyth, the Hero’s Journey did not just exhibit how an ordinary person became extraordinary.  It also developed how a shallow community member became a strong individual, a leader who inspired others to change.

The first stage of the Hero’s Journey—the Ordinary World—presents who we are before the transforming journey occurs.

Start with Duality

Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit (my favorite Tolkien) is complacent, self-absorbed, content

but certainly not satisfied.  He must be pushed and tempted into the journey There and Back Again.  This trailer shows the strength of a well-written Ordinary World and Call to Adventure.

 

Frodo in Lord of the Rings certainly feels his dissatisfaction, but he lacks both the impetus and will to take the first brave steps alone.  Thus, we have the necessity of his friends at the onset of the journey, each who have their own individual transformation to come.

A character’s dual nature can be two sides of the personality, can be two sides of the genetic inheritance (as it is for Bilbo), or can be two of the Tripartite Being in conflict.

OW

from The Hobbit, 2012
Bilbo Pushed & Tempted

Take care when presenting the primary characters during the Ordinary World.  The primaries should not become so arrogant that the audience can’t stand them.  Any bad trait should be counterbalanced with a good trait.

The Ordinary World (OW) stage of the Hero’s Journey—however brief—is necessary to show the unchanged primaries.  Obviously, the protagonist is necessary to introduce.  Presentation of the other primaries is necessary only if their transformation is key to the protagonist’s.

In The Hobbit film, Thorin Oakenshield’s OWie is presented in flashback, a story recounted in heroic fashion to Bilbo.

The problem with flashback and the reason it is kept for limited use are that it disrupts the story flow.  In film, this disruption traps the audience—unless we control the remote and skip ahead.  In a book we can skip it or skim it—although we rarely do.  Flashback used to present OW information becomes info dump, which is always to be avoided.

How do we write an Ordinary World start to our story without turning it into info dump?

Marion Zimmer Bradley said often to start a story at the first onset of trouble.

However, we need a bit to set up how that onset came in as trouble.

So, find the moment right before the onset of trouble.

1st Story Stage: the Ordinary World

Build the OW with the Latin 7.

WHO is here?

The protagonist, of course.  The actual question should be who else is here?  Any primaries?  Are these primaries allies?  How will the antagonist enter this scene?  Who else do we need?

WHAT is the sacrifice?

The What can be person, thing, object, place, and idea.

What thing needs destruction in order to start the protagonist on the journey?  How is that thing cherished by the protagonist?

The destruction, which is the 2nd Story Stage, is an explosion, literal and figurative.  Our job in the OW is to start rolling toward that destruction.

For example, if the destruction is the revelation of a lie, what dream will the lie destroy?  That dream becomes the protagonist’s OW focus.

The cherished thing to be sacrificed should be so strong that the antagonist can’t just turn away.

WHY is the cherished thing so dear?

Know the reason.  We may not write the reason into the 1st Stage.  We should certainly state it by the end of the 3rd Stage.  Yet we need to know it now, as we start.

HOW will the sacrifice occur?

Writers also need an early knowledge of the How, for we must set up for it.

BY WHOSE AID?

This is a two-sided question.

1st: The sacrifice needs to be important to the protagonist and another (one or more).  This increases the need for the protagonist to embark on the difficult Hero’s Journey.  Whether the genre is contemporary mainstream, historical romance, fantasy adventure, or another one, the destruction of the sacrifice should shock more than the protagonist.

2nd: The other side of “by whose aid” focuses on the participants in the destruction.

Know the reason that the antagonist is able to focus on the sacrifice.  This may come out at any point in the story, especially if the antagonist has a moment to gloat over the destruction of the dear.  The antagonist should also “know” the protagonist well enough to understand how the destruction will hurt the protagonist and other primaries.

Sidestep to a Side Character

A side element is the character who conveys information about the sacrifice to the antagonist.  This character needs to be familiar with the protagonist:  the degree of this side character’s perfidy is up to us writers.  And the revelation of the perfidy—that is also up to us.

WHEN and WHERE

The last two of the Latin 7 seem simple.

WHEN is a moment when destruction is least expected.  A moment of happiness is typical:  wedding, family gathering, holiday celebration.  Try to break the typical.

Pick an ordinary moment: driving home, going to a restaurant, Saturday errands.

WHERE should be a place of security for the protagonist.  Then the sacrifice of the cherished thing becomes even greater, for security is sacrificed as well.

Just as with the WHEN, the destruction’s occurrence in an ordinary place destroys the semblance of security.

Start the Story

“Begin with the end in mind,” Stephen Covey said in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  As it works in business, so it works in story.

From Hero with a 1,000 Faces
Campbell’s Keys to the Monomyth, from which the 12-Stage Hero’s Journey is derived by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey

Writers should start by knowing where the story is going, so we can lay traps for our protagonists.  And our first traps start in the Ordinary World.

Here are the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey.  We are working our way through them, two stages per month.  Join us for the next stage on the 20th of May ~~ and a promo for one of my books on the 1st.

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meet the Mentor
  5. Crossing the 1st Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
  8. Ordeal / Dark Moment
  9. A Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

~ M. A. Lee