I’ve had the idea for this post for months now. And finally it’s happening. I thought it would work well as part of a series. Probably posted monthly. I should be able to keep up with that.
What? It’s not like I never have regularity and posting on time here. Just not often enough.
The series is going to focus how certain ideas play out in real life and books in general. I’d like to think it’s got a bt of writing advice, but non-readers should find it just as interesting. Unless you hate discovering the patterns in most books which make it easier to predict things. (you know, the two leads will end up together if it it’s romance, the hero always wins, that slightly suspicious man is obviously evil
unless he’s actually good. Or on a deeper level you know that the protagonist is going to have to change in a certain way before he can succeed)
There are reasons things play out the same way in many stories. One of those reasons is because it’s real. Stories aren’t always like reality, but if they’re too far off in certain ways, they don’t work.
There’s a truth I’ve discovered that I think is one of the secrets to a good life. If you’re not content with what you have, you’ll never be happy however much you have. Or to look it from a less material perspective, if you’re waiting for things to change before you can be happy, it’s not going to happen. This is something that might be shown in a story, but certainly not every story. However there is a flipside, that I think subtly shows in many stories. It’s possible to be too content.
Yes, you can be too content. you can become complacent. Yes, you shouldn’t rest your happiness in things being a certain way, but sometimes things really do need to change. You must not be content to let evil go past. You must not just subsist even if it’s comfortable.
Just think of a story, any story. Is the protagonist completely happy with the way things are? Maybe they are. But do they stay that way for long? Of course they don’t. Something goes wrong and they’re forced to deal with it. If they were perfectly content to let things happen as they may, they would never get any where. They would be beaten before the fight even begun.
I’m terrible at pulling out examples because I know a lot more obscure stories than popular ones. But I’ll choose The Horse and His Boy. If Shasta had been content, passive, he never would have run away with Bree. He might not have listened at the door of the hut and known he was to be sold. And Bree, if he’d become complacent with his lot as a prisoner, he never would helped Shasta escape. Now you could say that to act differently was besides those characters natures, and you’d be correct. But that really is part of the point.
For another example I’ll pull out Truth by Molly Evangeline (aka Jaye L. Knight). Makilien, the protagonist lives in a little walled village no one ever leaves. She was drawn out by curiosity, but also by a sense that things should and could be better than they were. She was not content to simply leave things as they were. (This isn’t the best example, because the other villagers were more afraid and down trodden than complacent, but I think it still works)
Now for an example of a passive character, Jane Bennet. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice twice I think and don’t feel all that familiar with the details of the story, but I would call Jane passive. Things happen to her. Mr. Bingley just gets dropped in her lap, so to speak, and when he’s taken away, Jane hardly does anything. She’s just content to let things be. She doesn’t grasp after anything. That’s why she isn’t the protagonist. Lizzie is. And Lizzie isn’t afraid to let people know when she’s not happy.
This isn’t to say you can’t have a protagonist who is content, or that they have to speak their mind. Just don’t let them be passive, and don’t you be passive either. Find your contentment and go change the world. That’s how to be happy. (part of it at least)