Screenplay Structure: The Return

In this session, we discuss the plot point “The Return” from the hero’s journey and why it’s a valuable plot point for our screenplays.

The part in the hero’s journey that gets alighted is the point right after the climax. This point comes after all the hefty lifting in the screenplay outline template. It is referred to as “The Return” and plays a crucial point in storytelling. Let’s take a look at why this point is significant to the screenplay treatment. 

Purpose of “the return”?

Think of movies like Inception and Cast Away when the main characters go back to his daily life after the climax of the movie. Ultimately, the characters go back to what they were doing at the beginning of the movie. It’s a classic move and is very common in movie script formats. The characters go back to life after going through the intense plot with a new perspective. 

In the return, the characters are grounded once again and go into that parallel between life and story again. The characters overcome obstacles and conflicts throughout the plot. And when they wake up the next day where they have to face the same challenges, they do so with a new perspective. So, the return is actually the philosophical representation of the beginning of a new journey. A rebirth with a new perspective. 

Going Back To The Return Without Making It Cyclical

The characters go through a long journey, so going to the return may feel like it was all for nothing. Writers need to find a way to keep the meaning stay despite the script going back to the starting point. 

The team at SAN was recently working on deconstructing a script that came in. They had to establish the motivation of the character and work on the backstory. And for this plot, the motivation had to be tied to the identity of the character. The point was to refine the goal of the script. However, at the end of the day, the goal didn’t even matter. As long as a clear motivation was present in the screenplay outline template, a million goals could have been inserted. 

Ultimately, it’s that motivation to find the identity that will lead to the goal. So, if the goal for this script is to defeat the bad guy, then there must be a point in the movie script format that triggers the character’s motivation. The character needs to be faced with that moment of motivation. 

After the climactic moment, writers leave the movie on this return, simply to be able to come back. The return is very much a button on pacing too. After the intense scenes, the characters and the audience now get to relax. It helps the audience soak in that the character has learned something valuable and now they will just relax back into life with the new perspective.

It’s valuable because it brings us full circle. From a philosophical standpoint, it applies to our lives in general. We overcome the struggle and wake up the next day with a newfound fresh perspective on life. And that’s exactly what the return really is. 

The Importance Of Pacing 

Setting a pace and giving the audience the time to breathe after a series of serious moments or the climax is important. A little addendum to the scene which gives them a second to breathe and comprehend all that that has happened. The denouement is something that you will come across in plenty of different narrative structures. 

In a general screenplay outline template, moments of brevity need to exist. For example, in big action stories, action scenes are 15 to 20 minutes long with non-stop action. However, there are still moments in between those scenes where the character has to reflect. These moments are important to allow the character to have introspection. The climax is the most important moment of the movie script format. So, after the most intense scene, let the audience breathe a little bit. 

The return is just a beautiful way to bring the characters back after the journey that they have been through. The look on the character’s face allows the audience to have the introspection that the plot that they went through impacted them. It shows how they were affected and demonstrates clear character development. 

Think of the movie Cast Away which has a really profound intersection. The main character, played by Tom Hanks, loses his love, gets stranded on an island, comes back, and finds that the love of his life is with another person. It was a symbolic and beautiful moment that after everything that he went through, he, now, was ready to walk down a different path. The character is ready to continue his life with a new perspective. He has been able to overcome everything that he had to go through. As a result, the audience can see the major character development that happens due to the plot.   

Final Words

The point is that after all the bruises and the scars, the character can move on with his life with a fresh perspective. The return allows the audience to breathe and just absorb everything that has happened. It shows the character development that they went through. And finally, it allows them to see how the characters move on with their life with this new perspective. 

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