Sitting in church yesterday, I listened to a sermon on discouragement. Thanks Pastor Alan for another blog post and ideas on character development and flaws. We all face discouragement in our lives, as a writer I face it several times a week as I send out queries. Our characters should also face discouragement.
Mr. Webster defines discouragement as :
A loss of confidence or enthusiasm
Conflict is Good!
Really good stories have conflict. We create characters that have a goal or desire, then we put them in trees and throw rocks at them. Yes, that’s clique, but I don’t care. How our characters deal with these rocks is what gives them believability and interest. The bigger the rock the better the conflict.
What causes discouragement?
I’m sure we all have personal rocks that have led to discouragement. It’s different for each person, the same for our characters. Imagine a large floor covered in dominoes standing on end. Each of these kicks off a string of dominoes…
- Fatigue– Regardless of the goal your character has set, they must actively try to achieve it. Whether it’s potty training a toddler, trying to make partner in a law firm, or solving the murder of a coed on campus- goals take time and energy. You prioritize life, squeezing out as much time to work on your goal as you can, to the point where you are worn out. Does your character rest when needed? or Does he run headlong into the fog without regard to health and mental clarity? Their reaction to fatigue may determine how they deal with …
- Frustration- I deal with insomnia, when I don’t sleep my frustration level heightens. I grab chocolate and caffeine in hopes of staying sharp. That just makes it worse. Once, frustration has entered the mind of your character what does she do? Do they chose a healthy outlet like going for a run? Do they get cranky and start yelling at people? Do they bury themselves in their goal, trying even harder? When frustration takes hold it doesn’t take long for …..
- Fear- to set in. Your tired and frustrated, then the little red devil sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, “You’re not good enough.” How will your character deal with the fear of not obtaining their desired goal? They’ve been working toward it, they’ve planned everything out, tried every avenue, but it is still out of reach. What do the shadows whisper to them when they sit in the dark at night? Do they give in to an addiction? Do they take it out on loved ones? Do they further alienate themselves from others?In the end this fear is about one thing…
- Failure- We have all failed at something. We know the sting of not making it to the Spelling Bee, onto the football team, or rejected by love. How does our characters deal with it? They will fail at something, they have to. That failure will haunt them as they try to reach their goal. It’s like I tell my kids, “Failure is a learning experience and it builds character. No one likes to fail, but hopefully you’re smart enough to learn something so next time you’ll get closer.”
Discouragement is a common flaw. Just look around the room next time you’re at a large gathering. I promise you someone is facing it.
Whip discouragement !
At some point your character must face her fear, pluck up her courage, and get back on track. How many cliques can be in one blog post? I hope there’s not a limit. Is there a trusted friend to talk to? Does he go on a relaxing fishing trip to sort it all out? Does she go out with the girls to lighten her mood?
Discouragement doesn’t go away by itself or evaporate overnight. It’s a process. There is a point when the character must turn around and continue toward their goal. Did Frodo give up after Sam left? No, he pulled up his furry feet and kept going to Mordor.
Tension and conflict make stories memorable and our characters more interesting. But there also needs to be a resolution.
Do you have a character dealing with discouragement?