I was watching anime with my son when I noticed that there was a theme that popped up a bunch. Not in one episode, but in various series. It isn’t one that I’ve ever considered or seen much about, so I felt like broaching it. In fact, we can see how ‘Returning the Favor’ relates to our own lives as well. We are told very often that we need to payback the help that is given to us and do things without expecting a reward. Yet, we don’t think about it outside of situations where a favor has been returned in glorious fashion or a selfish snub has been made. So, let’s examine.
To make sure we’re on the same page, I want to be clear what ‘Returning the Favor’ is in my mind. Simply put, this is when somebody helps you and, whether immediately or down the road, you help them out. This happens a lot in fiction both clearly and by accident. An adventurer saves a village in passing and they show up when a small army is needed or their savior is looking for a place to hide. Sometimes, it isn’t even direct and the favor is returned by another figure. In ‘Rise of the Shield Hero’, the main character saves a village during a cataclysmic event while the rest of the chosen heroes ignored it. This resulted in a handful of soldiers and craftspeople supporting him later on because they had family in that village. The favor had been returned.
It isn’t too hard to do this on paper. You can plan it out or notice it when it happens, but it’s really a two-part equation. Somebody has to do a good thing first. It doesn’t even have to be seen since it could have happened before the story begins. We’ve all seen stories where a person helps a hero because a relative or some other connection lent them a hand at some point. After this has been established or seen, the favor is returned in some fashion that progresses the plot or solves a problem. Probably one of the simplest plot devices you can use.
Of course, people don’t always like it. These can be seen as contrived and a coincidence that the person who owes the favor can help. Well . . . yes. That’s kind of the point. If the person returning the favor wasn’t useful for that situation then they wouldn’t be there at all. Part of the point of this is that they or at least the hero see that they can help, which can be a coincidence. Happens in real life too. You just happen to know a person who can help you get a good job. You happen to know a guy who knows a guy that is trying to get rid of a car while yours just broke. Reality is fairly contrived and coincidental if you think about it. Might be getting off topic, but the point is that you shouldn’t let this be a reason to avoid the returning of a favor in your book. It could be the game changer that gives you the ending you want.
Returning the favor is a really big thing for authors too. One person promotes a book and hopes that others will do the same. It’s much harder though because authors disappear from social media all the time. Public calls for help can be missed while there are others who get help without returning the favor. You get burnt enough times and you might not try to help anyone. This ends up hurting you as well. It really shows that returning the favor of promotion is a big part of being a self-promoting author. Sometimes, it’s the only thing we have because it doesn’t cost money.
I will admit that it is a lot harder than it used to be. Long ago, authors used to read each other’s published books and do blog reviews. Some would even write a review on Amazon for a little boost. Then, Amazon cracked down it because it was seen as cheating. This is no longer a practice, which means we’ve lost a way to return the favor. Although, I’m pretty sure many still do this on the sly, but they avoid Amazon when it comes to posting reviews. Anyway, this is just how it used to be way back when. Now, we have to be more creative in how we return favors and help each other out.
What do you think about returning the favor in fiction and reality?