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  • Writer's pictureRussell F. Hirsch

The Hero’s Journey – Reward

The Hero’s Journey – Reward

Well that last post on the Ordeal was so frightening, I almost couldn’t go on! But after a bit of a break, the blog is now back as we surge toward the final stages of the Hero’s Journey.

So far, we have seen how a character in their Ordinary World receives a Call to Adventure that beckons them into a new world or some new life situation. They Cross the Threshold, entering that new situation, where they must contend with initial Tests, Allies, and Enemies, before they Approach a greater challenge—an Ordeal. As mentioned in the last post, this is the darkest moment the character has faced, but as we will now explore, they emerge from it with some sort of Reward. After getting through the Ordeal, they’ve certainly earned it!

Enter into the light

After their darkest spell yet, the character earns something positive.

With this Reward—material or immaterial—the character is ready to progress into the final phase of the story. We can view the Reward as the closing plot event of a story’s Middle section or Act 2.

The Reward is ultimately something that prepares the character as they head into the climax of a story. It’s kind of like getting a health boost in a video game that lets you carry on to the last and most challenging level. Indeed, in some novels, the Reward is literally a medicine that physically prepares the character for what’s to come.

Katniss Medicine

This is the case in The Hunger Games: Katniss must dangerously venture to the heart of the arena to get medicine that will save her ally (and quasi-boyfriend) Peeta. Once he is healed, they are ready to carry on to the climax.

But the reward can take on many other forms as well. It could be an item like a weapon or a map, or it could be some other valuable piece of information, like a secret code. In the original Star Wars film, for example, it is a set of encrypted plans revealing how to destroy the dreaded Death Star.

Star Wars Briefing

The Reward could be as subtle as a break in the weather that allows a character to travel to their final destination or as stirring as the return of a seemingly-lost ally. The Reward could also be emotional and intangible, like a declaration of love or a renewed sense of confidence. After all, these things can certainly give the main character the needed resolve to venture into the final chapters of a story.

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior, has suffered the loss of both his grandma and a close family friend. His Ordeal also involved having to play basketball on his home reservation against his former team and former best friend. His Reward, in turn, is a multifaceted boost of confidence: his friends rally around him, he starts making lists of all the things he enjoys in life, and to top it all off, he scores a Hollywood-worthy shot in a basketball rematch against his old team. It’s all helpful, though the story isn’t over yet—he’s still coming to terms with his new life situation and his place in it, and the biggest challenges still lie ahead.

Junior Basketball

Actually, the Reward in The Hunger Games also features a bit of an emotional component, as the scenes where Katniss heals Peeta are also those where they start to fall in love—albeit Katniss is lukewarm at best about that prospect!

Hunger Games kiss

If not romantic, resilient.

They won’t be cozily cuddling in that cave for long though! Now that the character is good to go, the story can build momentum and produce a Propelling Event that spurs us toward the big climax!

I call these some links!


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