I love it when writing lessons also work in real life.
Have you ever noticed how discouragement kicks in right before an amazing accomplishment? This is a very powerful writing tool, because almost everybody can relate to it. It makes an emotional connection between the reader and your character(s). Here’s a few examples from movies and TV shows you’ve hopefully seen before. Warning, there may be a few spoilers here:
Voldemort get a wand so powerful that he is unbeatable. Oh, and Harry Potter (ummm… spoiler alert) DIES!
Aang realizes that in order to save the world he will need to kill the Fire Lord, who is about to obtain an unstoppable source of power. Aang can’t bring himself to kill anybody.
Star Wars had this in each of the three original movies. In the first one, Luke’s mentor bites the dust. In the second one, Luke’s father cuts off his hand during a Father/Son bonding moment. In the third one, Darth Vader stands by and watches while the Emperor laughs hysterically and electrocutes Luke. Meanwhile, the Rebel Forces are being pulled into a trap and the Death Star is fully operational and taking out the force’s ships.
Kahn kills Spock. Or was it Kirk? Either way, a major character croaks, and there’s a good chance it will lead for a very unsatisfying sequel.
Frodo is overcome by the power of the ring, and he claims the ring for himself.
Rudy Ruettiger gets word he can’t play in the last game of the season. What a waste of four years!
Jar Jar lives. (Actually, bad example, this never did get resolved to my satisfaction)
I love it when I’m involved in a story and think, “Wait, how the heck are they going to pull this off?” They’ll hit rock bottom, but the character overcomes his own obstacle and pulls it off anyway.
I bet you thought of even more examples as you read the list above. If your character doesn’t hit the lowest point of their life right before the climax, I’d suggest taking a closer look at your story.
A caveat: Avoid Deus ex Machina (where the plot is resolved by divine intervention). As much as I loved the last Star Trek movie, a lot of people were upset over the Deus ex Machina of bringing people back to life. I mean, they found a convenient way to reverse death, for crying out loud! Can you imagine the implications?
In the above examples, the characters made a last minute decision to push on in order to win the day. I’ll expound on one example of them: Rudy–one of my favorite movies of all time.
Rudy gets the news that, despite giving 110% effort for four years, he would not be allowed the play in the final game. There is one more practice in the year left. For four years, he showed up to practice with the hope of running out onto the field one day. Now, he had no hope of pulling it off, so he decides to skip the last practice. I’d be discouraged and not show up either.
After a pep talk from his buddy, Rudy decides to show up for practice anyway. That choice, to see it to the end, lead to the resolution of the story.
I’m sure a lot of artistic liberties were taken by Hollywood on Rudy’s story, but it’s what makes Rudy’s story more inspiring. Even in the face of hopelessness, he chose to fight on.
I began this post by stating that this applies to real life and writing. When you are writing–or doing anything of significance–life often throws something in your path to make you question the importance of your desire.
I’ve heard so many writers say, “Wow, my writing is horrible. Nobody will want to read it and I’m just wasting my time. This is hopeless! I should move onto a new project or maybe just give up on writing altogether.” Authors think this so often, I’m convinced it is part of the writing process.
Millions of books have been written. I’d bet most only got published because the author found inspiration in their hearts to finish the story.
I recently hit one of these low spots in my life. It buried me in the dumps, and I’d considered throwing in the towel on writing altogether. I thought hard about it, and found something in my heart that got me moving forward again. No happy ending yet, but stay tuned! Apparently, this feeling is common among writers. It’s human, and being human is a wonderful thing.
Despite all the great movies, shows, and books, the ultimate decision must come from within YOU. You are the hero of your own story, and happiness is only found when you stop relying on others to solve your problems. Movies can motivate, but external motivation won’t help you finish writing your book. That power is within you. Find it. Embrace it. And keep on writing!
There’s an old metaphor that says that the night is darkest just before the dawn. If you’re at a dark place right now, remind yourself why you began the journey in the first place. What started you on this course of action? Rekindle that motivation and imagine the joy you’ll find when you achieve your goal.
If you haven’t sunk that far yet, know that one day you will. Decide now–RIGHT NOW–that no matter what, nothing will stop you from reaching your destination. It’s easier to decide now than when you are overwhelmed with discouragement.
If you’ve already fallen to the darkness, maybe it isn’t too late to give it another shot. If you gave up because your book sucked or you doubted it would appeal to anybody, look at it again. Remember, the editing process is what transforms sucky books into tombs of awesomeness.
If you’ve already overcome the darkness, I’d love hearing your story in the comments. Maybe your example can inspire others.
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” It’s one of my favorite quotes. It all comes down to YOU making the decision on either fighting the fight or just walking away.
Fight that fight. Endure the roadblocks and obstacles. Be awesome.