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
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”.
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.
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
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.
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.