Hi. I have a story about an old Scottish nobleman working towards a just future, who then got spirited away to an alien world. As he learns more about the alien world, it too has social injustice. The nobleman eventually gets allies there and they defeat the bad guys. (Mostly the good aliens, I don’t want the human to be a white savior). When the conflict is over, the human nobleman gets the chance to go home, but he then chooses to stay in the alien world since he found new friends there.

The thing is, the guy has a family and friends at home. How do I write the nobleman’s decision so that he doesn’t come off as cruel for leaving his old life behind?


Hey Tektalox, great to hear from you again!

This is the classic dilemma authors face at the end of any portal fantasy story. On the one hand, readers really want the protagonist to stay in the magical world, unless it’s a really terrible world. Chances are this is where novelty is highest, and it’s also where readers have built their attachment. Going back to the real world is basically anti-wish fulfillment, or “wishbusting,” as we call it. 

On the other hand, it’s often hard to justify why the character would choose to leave their original home behind. Just because readers are more attached to the magical world doesn’t mean the character suddenly stops loving their friends and family. In most cases, this isn’t an issue of cruelty so much as the reader’s desire clashing with the character’s motivation. The main reason it would be cruel is if the character had people depending on them back in the real world, people they’d be abandoning. 

To reconcile this choice, you have easy options: either create a hero with little to go back to or don’t make them choose in the first place. 

In the first scenario, the hero has few or no personal ties holding them to the real world. They could even be in a really bad spot, though that’s not necessary. Ambivalence will do the job just fine. Their family is either gone or estranged, and they have no close friends. Now it’s perfectly believable that they’d want to stay in the magic land. 

In the second scenario, they can come and go as they please. There’s no actual rule that the portal has to close at story’s end; it’s just a common convention. Instead, your hero can spend most of their time in the magical world, but still return to Earth to hang out with friends and family. Or, you could try a variation on this, where the hero brings the people they care about with them into the magical world – although then you have to think about everyone those people care about, which gets complicated. 

It’s always possible to do something more involved. Maybe the character does have loving parents, but after seeing how much happier the magical world has made their child, the parents give them their blessing to stay in the magical world. Or, maybe they have a deep character arc where returning to the real world is the satisfying albeit bittersweet conclusion. But if you’re looking for something simple, the two options I’ve outlined are your best bet.  

Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!

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