Drinking Elixir with the Gods
Return with the Elixir: last Stage of the Archetypal Story Pattern and the last blog on characters and mythic story structure. We’re drinking elixir as we toast the last of the novel.
Return with the Elixir, the conclusion of our novel, is certainly not a toss-off that we complete with our writing eyes closed.
As writers, we have slaved to create intriguing characters, unexpected twists in plot, enthralling details with symbols, motifs, and setting and motifs, and captivating elements of word craft on every page.
None of it matters if the last scenes don’t deliver.
It’s a Return = 1st.
The last three stages—the Road Back, the Resurrection, and the Return with the Elixir—belong to the greater ASP segment of Return and Re-Integration.
Our protagonists return to their Ordinary World / Stage 1, their starting point. They have changed, transforming like an acorn into a mighty oak.
The roots they sent deep into their souls to discover who and what they are have become the honor and ethics that guide them. Their trunks (their inner strength) are sturdy. Their limbs reach into the sky. And they are fulfilled with the potential for more and more and more, each year a new harvest of acorns.
They know how they are different from the antagonist as well as from the rather ordinary people of their OW.
They are no longer ordinary people facing extraordinary events.
By facing those extraordinary events, they have become extraordinary.
- Harry Potter destroys his connection to the Elder Wand, a decision neither Ron nor Hermione understand. No one needs that much power ~ even though Harry has that much power within himself. (Remember? Voldemort tried to use the Elder Wand to defeat Harry / Harry defeated Voldemort AND the Elder Wand because of the power within himself.)
- Aragorn, the returned king, releases the cursed Dead Men of Dunharrow.
- The Iron Man no longer needs the rush of power from his suits.
- Elizabeth and Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) no longer depend on the world to determine who they are and what they want.
Our protagonists have succeeded.
How do they now re-integrate with the OW that they left behind?
For they must re-integrate. No one—not even protagonists—can live perpetually in Alt. The humdrum daily world intrudes. Life;) happens.
That settling back into the OW helps the reader/audience settle the story in their mind. Deny them that re-integration, and they will be “unsettled” about the story.
It requires an Elixir = 2nd.
An Elixir is the drink of the gods. Better than honeyed nectar, the gods’ elixir is magical and miraculous.
The Elixir is tied directly to the Reward which harks back, all the way back, to the original Dear we destroyed at the Call to Adventure (C2A / Stage 2).
The original Dear drove the protagonists into their journey. That desire transformed and mutated as much as our protagonist did.
At the Reward / Stage 9 the protagonists grasped their new and renewed Dears, a first opportunity to celebrate with the Treasure that sustained their persistence through tribulations and motivated them to continue through the ultimate battle.
Now, the protagonists have the transformed Dear. The Return of both to the OW is a celebration.
Tangibles and Intangibles
Depending on genre, the Elixir takes various forms, but all contain the duality of literal and figurative.
Protagonists and audiences need a tangibile Elixir, not a symbol or metaphor.
- The King Crowned
- The Broken Sword Restored
- The Ring on her Finger
- The award or diploma or lectern that represents the Pinnacle Achieved.
The intangible is all that those items represent:
- The King’s Crown: authority, status, respect. Wow, I just learned that the Elixir can help improve a character’s motivations all the way back to Stage 1, OW. (This is the reason for planning, rather than pantser-ing. [Is “pantser-ing” a word?])
- The Restored Sword: veterans appreciated, wounds healed, rank re-acquired
- The Betrothal Ring: love and devotion, commitment and truth, health and home.
- The Pinnacle Achieved: esteem from others, recognition for work and persistence, adulation—which sets up the next book, doesn’t it? As the protagonist struggles with personal pride and extreme adulation.
I hope this year of bi-monthly blogs has enlightened you as much as it has me.
Archetypes seem simple—they are not. They are not stereotypes, not cookie-cutter models. They create a framework for our delving into causes and motivations, fears and fortes, and desires and needs for our characters. These six—causes, motivations, fears, fortes, desires, needs—these create individuals from flat character outlines.
Archetypes build a foundation. Exploring the character types and the elements of each stage of the ASP build stories with unexpected depths that please our audiences.
And when our audiences are pleased, we are, too.
Not quite certain. I’m sure I’ll think of something. I always do.