7 Tips to Rewarding Heroes

Legend of Zelda Ending

This is another one of those topics that I wrote down months ago, was sure I’d remember what I meant, and promptly forgot.  I can’t even remember what triggered the idea, so here we are with a list.  I mean, it is important to reward our heroes for a job well done.  They need to achieve something once their adventures are done.  As long as they survive unless we’re counting death, limbo, or whatever nightmarish scenario we come up with as a reward.  So, what can we do?

  1. A peaceful life is a viable reward.  If the character has been through a lot and you want to give them a positive ending, you can give them a chance to retire.  Their adventures are done and they earned a break from all the stress.  You can hint at this throughout the story to make sure it doesn’t come as a shock.  Maybe they talk once about wanting to own a farm or take up gardening.  The point is that they get to rest.
  2. As stated, you do need to make the reward work.  It can’t be a small trinket with no real use after saving the world.  So, the adventure and reward have to match in terms of scale.  Not so much for the author, but for the character.  If that trinket is a precious item that means everything to the hero then it works.  If it’s a random piece of junk bought at the market then it doesn’t.  This is why it helps to plan the rewards to some extent and alter them if need be.
  3. If you happen to get a solid fan base and are writing a series then you might run into a small problem.  Vocal fans may demand specific rewards along with the relationships because they’ve picked up on clues.  Some may be right while others could be jumping to conclusions.  An author may be tempted to snag these ideas to appease their loyal fans, but it shouldn’t be done without considering the story impact.  Look at what they say and see if it makes sense.  It could be better than your original idea or it could make all of what you’re planning pointless.
  4. Money can always work.  Long history of riches being given to heroes as well as noble titles and land.  If the character doesn’t want to travel and has no other ideas then this can work.  It gives them a place even if they don’t have any more goals.
  5. Try your best to avoid the finale being the granting of wishes.  Not every story has a genie or a king with a bizarrely specific collection of rewards.  I’m sure everyone has a ‘wife resurrection’ potion and three pegasus sitting around.
  6. A reward doesn’t have to be a surprise.  It can be something that the character has wanted or seen earlier in the adventure.  Having them go for that specific goal or reward helps give them depth.  It also means that there will be no question as to what they will earn.
  7. I guess cursed items can work too.  Opens the door to a sequel.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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11 Responses to 7 Tips to Rewarding Heroes

  1. L. Marie says:

    😅 I have to laugh, since Link’s “reward” is that he gets to do it all over again in the next game while the citizens get to celebrate peace (which seems to be short lived).
    Great tips! Back in the day “the girl” used to be the reward as the hero rides off into the sunset with her. But characters like Ripley and Sarah Connor I guess are just grateful to live through their adventures (though they also get to do it all over again in the subsequent movies).
    I do like the aspect of rewards though. I remember in Star Wars Luke and Han getting medals (though for some reason Chewie didn’t get one until many years later). It gave closure.
    I have a question for you though: do you think the aspect of a reward is part of the hero’s journey (the return home)?

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    • Always thought it was usually a different Link. So the previous one gets to rest and another one turns up in a future generation. Though I’ve heard each one gets 2 games each too.

      I think the aspect of rewards is part of every journey. It’s not always a material thing too. They just have to gain something by the end even if it’s peace of mind. I’d say even supporting and villains can get them as well.

      Girls and riches did tend to be the mythological reward. Before the hero suffers a horrible demise, of course.

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      • L. Marie says:

        You’re right about the different Links. Still, he seems to exist to get the job done and then move on.
        I like when the hero gets some sort of reward or recognition for a job well done.

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      • I remember Link getting a restful ending in a few. He got to keep all his gear too.

        It is nice to show a payoff for deeds. At least if it makes sense. I remember reading that Chewbacca didn’t get a medal because his culture doesn’t care about them. They celebrate in a different way. Though that sounds more like a reason made after the fact.

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  2. I can’t imagine a fantasy or quest without some reward. I think we all enjoy seeing the protagonist getting something they want.

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  3. This is a good topic, but I think it’s all in the sales pitch. If you set it up early enough, almost anything can work. All Woody Harrelson wanted was a Twinkie. Fairy tales often offer the ultimate prize, usually a princess, as bait to go on the quest in the first place. In all my genres, and in yours the reward is almost required.

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