As writers, we tend to be naturally voracious readers, meaning over the years we have experienced many difficult situations through the perspective of characters: intergalactic space battles between the forces of good and evil (Star Wars). The ruthlessness of Panem’s game arena (Hunger Games). Even shape-shifting clowns in sewers (IT) and pets that don’t stay on their side of the rainbow bridge (Pet Semetary). We’ve also written story after story where our characters are thrust outside their comfort zones and given problems they have no idea how to solve.
So why do we have such a fascination with adversity? Are we a hopelessly deviant lot, enjoying putting the screws to our characters? Are we acting out frustrations from the real world? Maybe. But I believe this fascination is really about something else…hope.
We hope that in our own life journeys, when faced with a crisis, point of pain, or situation with no easy answers, we too will find a way through it.
The biggest challenge we have to navigate right now is Covid. Reality was upended when it came along, it caused anxiety to blossom, and we’re all trying to pivot to find a route forward where we can live safely.
It’s been a lot to handle.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and let fear take over.
Easy to feel pessimistic. Easy to lose hope.
If I can offer an idea for us all, it might be to ask, WWOCD: What would our characters do?
Let’s look to the protagonists that hold us in thrall, the ones who choose hope over fear. Perspective over panic. Those who seek knowledge, think creatively and marshal their internal strengths. Characters who dig deep, find their resolve, and then put one foot in front of the other until they are finally on the other side.
Like our characters discover in the story, we too are stronger and more adaptable than we might believe.
Each of us has experienced painful ups and downs, challenges and struggles. We got through those because we had the courage to face what comes and the self-belief to act. So in trying times, let’s make sure HOPE is always our North Star.
As we ride through uncertainty and what comes with it, it can be easy to feel alone. But remember that we are all part of one of the most amazing communities in the world. We writers bond online in groups, social media feeds, and forums, talking about characters, books, and the writing path. We can help each other through many things by staying connected. For example, Becca and I are in many places on social media. Please reach out if you need to!
My friend Jami Gold has a terrific post on how to move forward as writers, manage stress, and connect with the outside world even when we’re stuck at home. She’s brought together fun things to experience online and things to do together as a family. I urge you to pop by and to pass on the link to others who will find these ideas helpful.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Columbia Hillen says
Indeed a very interesting post and I agree with Angela, this is a situation we can consider an opportunity rather than a crisis – apply ourselves to write more, strive more. And there are online opportunities where we can even be rewarded for our writing, such as this new writing competition for flash fiction and creative nonfiction (including travel writing). Why not have a story inspired by these times? And enter a competition? Just an idea… https://www.irelandwritingretreat.com/writing-competition
Yeah but what if the difficult time is more mundane than anything else. Like this covid-19, you basically have to stay inside, most likely the character would be doing the same things as you, which is not a very heroic thing to think about.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I think you’re thinking of the physical nature of it and not the emotional side. Most of the heavy lifting when it comes to any difficult event is internal. For example, who are you worried about right now? Yourself, family members who you are responsible for? Do you have parents, grandparents, relatives or friends who have health conditions that could be compromised? Do you have health conditions?
Financially will you be okay? Will the people you love be okay?
Then there’s isolation. Some people thrive in it, others do not. A person who came from a domestic abuse situation is going to struggle being trapped at home. A person who has high anxiety about health, having access to resources, and worries about the state of the world will struggle. Extroverts and pessimists will struggle too.
So these are just a few examples of how stress, worry, and fear can grip us in times of trial, just as they do our characters. Our characters have to find a way through these negative emotions because they eat away at esteem, self-worth, and hope, and the character, if they are to succeed at their goal, must mentally overcome their doubts and fears and do whatever is within their control to steer events toward their goal if they want to succeed. 😉
Deborah Makarios says
This reminds me a little of a post I wrote a few years back (https://deborah.makarios.nz/living-the-story/), thinking about how characters from my favourite books help me keep going, and how the story I tell about myself, or the kind of character I cast myself as, actually has an effect on what I do and how I cope.
Nice to know it’s not just me being weird!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Nope, not weird at all. I’ll have to swing by and read your post. Thanks for stopping in, Deborah!
Your newsletters are *always* helpful and inspiring…
This one is exceptional!!!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Thank you so much, Angela. I’m glad this was what you needed to hear. Stay healthy and take care <3