Our hero has crossed two major thresholds so far. The first brought him to the other world. The second delivered him to his ordeal. Now, he needs to cross a third.
After the ordeal, our hero seized his reward and felt pretty good about himself. He celebrated, became a man, found love, recounted his amazing tale to the delight of his companions and generally let himself forget that maybe, just perhaps, he wasn’t finished yet. The third threshold that needs to be crossed here is rededicating oneself to the quest. What our hero has endured might be believed by no one when he returns home, he might be called a liar or never have his accomplishments fully appreciated, but he set out on this course to accomplish something. Perhaps the village is starving, or a magical illness is running its course. The hero has the cure for what ailed his ordinary world, and now he must return with it.
So what makes this interesting? How does this fill an entire third act of a film? Well, if the road to hell is a downward slope, the road back is an upward climb.
Our hero’s decision to return to the ordinary world could be made for him by a vengeful force rising from the ashes of the ordeal. Our hero might start on the road back at a healthy run, with evil in fast pursuit.
Much of what puts our hero on the road back is going to relate to a) Why he started the quest or b) How he obtained his treasure after the ordeal.
If the hero started his quest to save his ordinary world, he will take the road back because that is part of the quest.
If the hero had to steal his end goal (an elixir or treasure) chances are he needs to get back to the safety of his ordinary world to avoid the owner of said item.
Here’s some events that might kick off the road back stage.
- The villain appears to avenge his main henchman
- The villain was only faking death and reveals he is much stronger than thought
- The “elixir” is stolen from the hero
- The hero’s love interest (or loved one in general) is kidnapped
- The owner of the “elixir” returns to take it from the hero
- The hero receives word conditions in his ordinary world are worsening
If any single image sticks in your head about this stage, it should be of a chase. The celebration after the ordeal has caused a lull in the action of our story and the road back hits the ground and throws evil at our backs so we get running.
Next, our hero receives a symbolic, or maybe literal, resurrection.