The Plotting Workshop: The Road Back


All right, here we are in Act III. Can you believe that we’ve made it this far? By now, your novel has shaped up into something you’re excited about–and you can see your way to the end. When you get to actually write this part of your story, your work will take on a life of its own.

The Road Back refers to one of two things. It’s either the start of the hero’s return to the their original ordinary world, or the start of their journey toward some place completely new. Even if your main character is headed back to the beginning–back home, like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz–they have changed so that they aren’t going to experience home in the same way as they used to.

And either way, your MC is starting back toward the Ordinary World–either the one they already know, or one they haven’t reached yet. What they’ve learned and how they’ve changed will impact how they live in that new ordinary world.

But first, something has to happen that will propel your MC toward the end of their story. This scene marks the line between Act II and Act III.

Read the “The Road Back” chapter of The Writer’s Journey.



A couple of things are going to happen at this stage of your story.

First, your MC is going to find a new level of dedication to his journey. Usually, it won’t come easily. After the Ordeal, which was a big win, they might be happy where they are. Something has to take place now that yanks them back into the story.

Often this acceleration involves some sort of a chase scene. Something exciting, that will bring your story out of the slower pace of the second act and into the higher-octane third act.

Like the threshold your MC crossed to enter the story, this is the scene that will eventually take them back out of it. It will set them on the road home–whether that’s to their original home or to somewhere entirely new.

Vogler calls the thing that pushes the MC into the main climax a propellant. It boosts the story and forces them to push harder toward their goal.

Second, your villain will probably have a boost of energy toward their own goals. Remember, they are the hero of their own story as well as being the shadow in your MC’s. As the MC gets closer to success, the villain will need to fight harder, too.

This is a big reversal from the high of the Ordeal. It’s often something sudden that happens, with no warning.

Grab your notebook and label the next page The Road Back. Answer these questions.

  • How does your MC rededicated himself to his journey?
  • What does the road back look like? Is it a clear path? Does your MC have to muddle through it? Are they just plopped onto it by some force outside themselves?
  • Where does the road back head? Is your MC going back to the beginning, or somewhere entirely new?
  • What happens to accelerate the story at this point? What is your MC’s propellant.

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If you want to see this whole course on Teachable, for free, click here.

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