You can’t go home again, and neither can your characters.

by Gail Z. Martin

Contrary to Bon Jovi’s experience, most of us find that going home after we’ve left is at best bittersweet and at worst impossible.  That’s true, I’m convinced, because not only are we not the same people who left, but the place we’ve left behind changes while we’re gone.  It’s that whole thing about not stepping into the same river twice.

As I find myself spending more time in my hometown than I have spent since leaving high school (thanks to some family concerns), I got thinking about how many of my characters have had a reason to make a return home under difficult circumstances.

Tris flees his home to avoid being killed, only to find that he must return to face his monster of a brother in order to protect those he loves.

Jonmarc staggers from his village wounded and grief stricken as the sole survivor of a massacre by northern raiders, and returns years later to repel another invasion, this time, as the champion of a queen and at the head of an army.

Kiara leaves her homeland to forge a political alliance and returns to a shattered homeland that looks to her untested abilities to save it.

Cam went back to the home that exiled him and found unexpected strengths and an unknown lurking threat.

Even Kolin finds a mixture of grief and solace returning to what remains of his home, although only ghosts and the undead still inhabit the place where he used to live.

Maybe my subconscious put me on the track of bittersweet homecomings. More than once, I’ve worked through a difficult issue only to look back through my writing and find out that I’d unconsciously put my characters in the same situation in various guises.  It’s happened enough times to make me wary when I find themes in my own stuff, wondering what it means for my real life.

The whole homecoming arc certainly isn’t new; after all, that’s at the heart of The Odyssey.  But it probably resonates more at a mid-point in life more than when you’re younger and bursting from the gate to seek your fortune.  If you can think of other character homecomings in other books, I’m interested to see what you come up with!


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