Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Reward

Sorry for the last post. It's been a crazy week and it's only Wednesday!

The Reward
This is also called, "seizing the sword." Having beaten death, the dragon, the dark lord, whatever you can come with, the hero now takes possession of the treasure he or she has come seeking. It might be a weapon or token or some elixir which can heal the wounded land. It can be an epiphany or self-realization.

This is almost always a time where the hero is recognized or rewarded for having survived the great ordeal. There can be a celebration, a campfire scene where everyone reviews recent events or even a love scene, where the hero finally gets together with their true love.

But it's essential the hero takes possession of whatever they came seeking after. Some heroes "purchase" the treasure, buying it with their lives or the willingness to rise their life. Some steal the it. The prize is not always given, even if it has been paid for or earned. It must be taken.

How can we handle this in a satisfying way for our readers?


  1. I meant to say LATE post ... sheesh ...

  2. I haven't gotten anywhere near this point yet in my own work, so I'll just point to how two of my favorite authors handled this. First, Tolkein. In _The Lord of the Rings_ there's the brief interlude where our heroes are acclaimed in Gondor, and then they go home, only to find that they have *failed* in their original quest to keep the Shadow out of the Shire. This seems, on its face, to be a deeply unsatisfying ending, brightened only by Frodo passing into the West. But I think it's vastly superior to the alternative (the movie ending). For that matter, even the victory in _The Hobbit_ rings rather hollow, as I recall.
    In contrast, the _Sharing Knife_ series by Lois McMaster Bujold has a very depressing plot summary: our hero's people, the Lakewalkers, are "fighting the long defeat" against "malices," each of which must be destroyed at the cost of one Lakewalker death or it will basically destroy the world. But within this framework she creates a rather hopeful plot, and what the heroes have earned on that front at the end of each arc is a respite. The main plot is mostly about the interaction between cultures, and is much harder to analyze. (She also has a much more traditional denoument in a different fantasy universe in _The Curse of Chalion._)
    I think a large part of what makes the rather dark ending to _The Lord of the Rings_ even more satisfying than Bujold's superb plotting is that Tolkien, because of his faith, understands the nature of the world better.
    In my writing, the heroes are fighting a long war interrupted by periods of peace; evil is contained, but maintaining this takes effort. The prize that the heroes will have won is the safety of freedom for another while, and a small new territory liberated from the evil power's domination. But even here I intend for it to be somewhat ambiguous whether or not this could accurately be described as "fighting the long defeat," because as the overt Evil Empire diminishes, so too will the obvious necessity of devotion to the Right by those who oppose it.

  3. Hi, Pam, I tagged you on my blog!

    WV: redireck

    How appropriate!

  4. Annay's quest is to get a sword. Once she does she takes it to the captain of the guard. She gives it to him and surrenders herself for having lost it in the first place and as she sees it the loss of so much life.
    What she really get in the end is forgiveness and the ability to be loved and love again.

  5. Jonathan, I like your insights.
    Christine, okay, I've been tagged. I'll get working on the survey. Do I post it on your blog?
    Doug, I love your ending!

    I'm not quite there in my WIP yet, too, but I know what I want to happen and I can't tell you or it will ruin the surprise!! But I'm hoping to handle it in such a way that the reader doesn't know it's coming and when they do, it won't be cheesy. I believe in a totally satisfying ending, so that's my goal.

  6. Pam, you post it on your blog, and tag some other people.

    Jonathan, I found the written ending of LOTR extremely satisfying. The hobbits stay with their friends for months, winding things down, until Aragorn and Arwen's wedding finally occurs. Then they journey home, and have the satisfaction of being heroes in their homeland. In the movie, they get no recognition at all when they go home. As well, Tolkein shows how war affects the homeland, and nothing is ever the same again. I'm sure this is a parallel to London being blitzed in WWII.

    Finally, the 50-something confirmed bachelor Frodo chooses to go to Faerie with the elves and Gandalf. He really wants to go and is happy about it. Infinitely superior to the 20-yr-old Elijah Wood version leaving (for some not very clear reason) with a bunch of people much too old for him to really enjoy their company, as if he was giving up on life. I wanted to grab him and say, "You're too young! Find a Rosie of your own! Get married, have kids, party with your buds. Don't give up yet."

    I felt like Peter Jackson a) made a mistake killing Saruman off too quickly (he just can't resist the gore) and b) ran out of time and/or money. As in, "We're done now. The end."

    I hate it when authors do the same thing. Some end the book as soon as the action is over and skip the reward entirely. I hate that.

  7. I love this part! Finally the heroes get to say the horrah!!! Whoopdedoo!

    I'm still working on Jane's reward. I know that one of my main character pays for his reward -- with his life. :_(

    ANYway, I love this part :)

  8. I loved writing the "grabbing the sword" part of the Keepers of Elenath. It's not so much as a time for acclaim or recognition (Gwaeron already has plenty of that) it, for my characters, is a time of reflection. They see the sacrifices that their comrades in arms have made and realize that they have failed to apprehend the Vial and the Chest. They have failed to save their world. But does it end there? No, of course not (they have to survive six more books). There is a degree of victory at the end; the Keepers are named and Theloq and the rest of the Eight Walkers finally return home, defeated. They realize how important life is, and that, in itself, for them in their war-torn world, is enough.

  9. "They have to survive six more books." ROFL! I'm quite impressed. I can barely plot one book, let alone six!

  10. I have a few series but my poor charries can't seem to survive long enough to last them!! Except for my pet charries :) Oh wait ... Never mind. :)

    But I always make sure the good guys win.