Monday, September 28, 2015

Sending Your Character Back Home

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Birch House Press). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

(This post is part of the Writing A Novel From Beginning to End series. You can find other posts from this series on the Looking For Something Specific? tab.)

One of the most rewarding parts of a story is when we get to see how much a character has changed. There are lots of ways to show this, but something I really like to see is a character being "sent home."

This isn't in every story, nor should it be, but many stories have a moment where something has happened that sends the character back to their home world (meaning the place where they started the story) and the character finds that they no longer fit there.



While this is a scene that comes at the end of a story, it's really flexible as to where it fits or even who it should happen to. Let's look at a few examples that show the diversity:

In Cars, Lightning McQueen isn't so much going home as he is going back to the racing world. He finally arrives at his big race in California, but despite how he's spent the majority of the movie trying to get out of Radiator Springs and back to the society where he's a big star, he finds the superstar life isn't as satisfying as he remembered it being.

Another great Disney example is in Tangled. After Rapunzel is abandoned by Flynn Rider and her mother chases away the Stabbington brothers, Rapunzel willingly returns to the safety of her tower. Her mother undoes the hairstyle that the village girls did and states, "It's like it never happened." But that's not true at all. Rapunzel has changed and can't quite turn off that part of her that thrived in the outside world.

In romance novels, we often see this "going back home" moment when the characters break up. The characters try to go back to living their lives like they did before they met each other. In This Lullaby, when Remy and Dexter split, Remy goes back to her life of casually dating, obsessively cleaning her room, and preparing to leave for college. Dexter returns to his life as a musician. But their time together evolved them into new and better people than they were on their own—a trait that makes a relationship great in literature and in real life—and we see how they can't just go back to who they were. 

If you're writing a series, sometimes moments like this come after the climax. Like at the end of The Hunger Games where Katniss believes that after she gets back to District 12, they can all just pretend the games never happened and go on with life as it was. When we pick up with her in Catching Fire, we'll see she's found that's not true.

If you have multiple point-of-view characters, getting sent home may not have to happen to your main character. In Frozen, the moment happens for Kristoff. He's a man who likes to be alone, who never wanted to be saddled down with Anna in the first place, but after he returns her home and heads back up into the mountains, Kristoff quickly realizes that being a loner doesn't work for him anymore.

Again, this isn't something your story has to have, but it can be a very effective way to show just how much a character has changed since we met them.

Does your story have a moment when a character gets sent home? 




18 comments:

  1. Love this! : ) I think that's the most poignant sort of scene....

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    1. Agreed. I think it really showcases how much a character has changed.

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  2. These are some of my favorite scenes, both to write and to read.
    Most of these kinds of scenes that I've written take place outside of the main story, in short "bonus" stories. But I have a series of scenes like this at the beginning of Between Two Worlds.

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    1. That's interesting, Sarah. Are the bonus stories something you write just for you, or do you intend to do something else with them?

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    2. Well, I posted the series the stories were in on my main forum, and I posted said stories on there as well. If/when I actually publish the series, I'll probably include the side stories in the back of the novel they're set closest to.

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  3. So much fun! I love reading these types of scenes. In my "sequel" Areli goes back to pretty much the loner life he used to live and he also journeys to his homeland. He tries to convince himself that he enjoys it but he doesn't feel right.
    He doesn't want his old life, but he doesn't want his new one either. Needless to say, this leads to some difficult choices.

    Thanks for the awesome post! :)

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    1. And difficult choices make for a great story!

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  4. I have always noticed these scenes and understood what they did when reading/watching them, but I never thought of using one in my own stories. I wonder why. They work really well and could be great to write. Thanks for the post, I'm absolutely trying this!

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    1. I've never intentionally put one in my books, but I like the idea of doing so!

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  5. "The wheels in my head have been turning..." (Gaston, people, Gaston) This has given me a great idea for my story ending...great analysis of these stories! I've never thought of the points you brought up.

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    1. And now THAT is going to be in my head the rest of the day... :)

      I don't know that my husband loves my story analyzing tendencies. I think he'd sometimes like to watch a show or movie without me interjecting my writing thoughts.

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  6. I've never done this in my own stories, but it's something I'm definitely going to add in edits.

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    1. I haven't intentionally done it before, but I would like to try!

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  7. In the end of my book, my girl literally gets sent home. After being in Camelot, she comes back to modern times and nothing is like it was before. I didn't even realize how much she changed until I put her back in the same setting as she'd been before and it was a night and day difference.

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  8. great post. i love trying to find little points like this in my stories, most of the time it uncovers something you never saw before.

    my example's a bit different. my character spends most of the book working toward a better life that she thinks she belongs in. In this case, its living in a big kingdom with royalty and being important and stuff like that. Near the climax, she has to solve this HUGE problem that puts a lot of people at stake. During this time, she's traveling around the kingdom, which is supposedly her true home. but the whole time, everything just feels off.

    its not exactly her home world, but it works:)

    ~K.A.C.

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  9. In my book, the group of main characters gets captured; al but one of them are taken by the bad guys, and the other girl is forced to go back to her abusive mother. It's kind of her "going back home" moment, as well as her "all is lost" moment, but she runs away(just like she did at the beginning of the book) and rejoins the others.
    (I'm trying to be coherent but really I just want to asdfghjkl over my brave child)

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  10. Sorry, I know this is an old post, but I am commenting anyways. This is very interesting! So 'sending your character home' is kinda the moment of realization (usually shortly after the climax?) where they realize their old way of doing things is kinda empty and something is missing, even if they are living their lives the way they were before things changed?

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