I am able to walk away from what does not serve me well, in order to embrace what does.Aug 01, 2021
It’s what we all want to be capable of doing.
As writers we understand the position we place a protagonist in every story we tell. The audience meets them in their normal environment, then an obstacle threatens that normalcy. A desire inspires a new goal that requires change. The dusty, overgrown state of normal must be left behind. New doorways are found and opened along the way to achieving this goal. A protagonist must be active.
I think it's easy to assume people already do this in their lives. But for many, life and its circumstances begin to feel like they simply happen to them without their involvement. Things happen around them and the daily landscape becomes familiar and comfortable.
But we have more agency than this. Writers prove the importance of this truth in every story. Our characters walk toward what serves them and away from what doesn't, usually resulting in a happy third act. Tragedy reflects real life too, though, when a character's agency is not embraced. Act 3 can resolve in great irony and pathos. Layer in the complexity of it all.
The complexity of this reminds us of the familiar advice to write what we know. We all understand the weight of conflict on the level of our own experiences. And hopefully on our journey to adulthood we've learned the difference between choices that serve us and others, or don't. The consequences of not choosing well in the real world can filter down into our writing. Understanding our protagonist's thoughts, opinions and choices is crucial. So is their impact on other characters.
Empathy is crucial here. We need it in order to see ourselves more clearly and to offer an informed and layered narrative to the audience of our work. The best stories paint a picture that is colored with as many points of view as there are characters, each pursuing a goal. Our protagonist is actively navigating all of it. Their own self awareness and regard for empathy matter to those choices. Conveying their story rests on how well you know and can empathize with them.
CREATIVITY CATALYST: Recall important moments of good and bad choices you've made in your life. What moments in your life took you out of your comfort zone and led to personal growth?
How have the choices of others harmed or benefitted you? Have certain personality types had an impact on you more or differently than others?
Journal about these things or keep lists of these ideas so that you can add important brush strokes of authenticity to your work.
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