Why Characters Struggle

Posted 10-10-18

I hate to admit this, but in my early books the characters faced too few challenges. This fault was noticed by a number of reviewers, but I basically ignored them as negative trolls who were having a bad day. I was tired of reading books which reflected constant turmoil, struggle, pain and angst. There was already plenty of that in the news and everyday life, and I wanted to write about people and places where most everything goes right. (Note to self: this is called fantasy.)

It took a while for me to figure out that few people want to read such stories. Why not? Because it doesn’t reflect real life. I’m sure there is a complicated psychological explanation for the human need to face and overcome obstacles, and we all subscribe to it whether we want to or not. I have never met a single person who’s life was ALL sunshine and roses, and neither have you. This is why my characters, if I want them to be realistic, must be given struggles to overcome, problems to solve, and issues to face.

Matthew Trinetti wrote an interesting article entitled “Ten Reasons to Love the Obstacles in Your Life”. There were several which I consider particularly useful as an author:

1.Obstacles show us who we really are.

2.Obstacles instruct us on what to do next.

3.Obstacles help us focus on what’s important.

4.Obstacles help us find meaning in our lives.

5.Obstacles give us the opportunity to change our lives for the better.

So I guess I have to admit those “negative trolls” were right after all, and I deserved their criticism! My recent books are more representative of reality, and truth be told, my readers and I are both happier with them. Still…I hate making my main characters suffer too much or for too long. A bit of realism is fine, but I will probably always prefer writing stories which are generally uplifting.






2 responses to “Why Characters Struggle”

  1. H.R.R. Gorman Avatar

    Was Expedition one of these earlier works? I can see a little bit of this in the book, but I don’t necessarily think that ‘too easy’ is the right way to put it.

  2. Alexander Elliott Avatar
    Alexander Elliott

    Yes! Expedition was my second book and I was still trying to figure out what I was doing. If you read the reviews, you’ll see a number of criticisms regarding the ease with which good things happen and the all-powerful technology which allows them to do whatever they want. Is this what you noticed as well?

    If I were to write the book today, it would be quite different. Still, I can’t help but love the main story line and the characters. Not bad for only my second try!

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