March 7, 2014

Conflict builds character

I feel like I'm the heroine in a literary novel.

You know the kind - one bad thing after another happens and it breaks her down to the point where she learns something crucial to her existence.

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be learning from all this.  Patience?  Long suffering?  Endurance?  Smiling through adversity?  To fold my laundry before it becomes a mountain?  To put away my rolling pin before my two-year-old gets to it?  Become stronger like this guy?  (Ha!  I'm not that disciplined.)

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

Over the years, I've had more trials than I care to list.  Each taught me something and helped mold me into who I am.  There's no way I could have weathered the past week without having a complete meltdown without those lessons.

Because I was taught to share and I'm sure you want to know what's been going on:

My oldest son needed surgery, so we were working to get ahead on his schoolwork so he could take time off to recover without falling behind.  We didn't quite manage it because...

Three days before the surgery, my two-year-old dropped a marble rolling pin on his foot and broke his toe.  Three hours in the ER and a couple of super clingy days where all he wanted to do was snuggle and whine.

And then...

The day before the surgery, I had to go into the dentist to replace a broken filling.  Caring for others with a sore mouth makes for a cranky mom, by the way.  I knew you were wondering.

And then...

Our internet went down.  We pay for up to 10 Mbps.  We were getting less than one.  Since my son does online school, lessons were difficult to complete when the web pages wouldn't load.

And then...

The day of the surgery came.  It went well, but since it was the first time one of my children had to have a procedure more involved than a circumcision, I was a complete wreck.  And so was my house.  My children seem to know when I'm stressed and love to double my to-do list on those days.

The day after the surgery, the internet repairman came and "fixed" our problem.


He's coming back today.

So here I am, fighting a dying internet connection, caring for a child recovering from surgery, trying to keep a broken toe from getting hurt again despite my child's multiple attempts to climb EVERYTHING IN SIGHT, and hoping to get that pile of laundry folded in time to wash some more.

And yet, the only time I've cried was last night when I dreamed someone came in my house and broke my mom's violin.

Maybe conflict really does build character.

MORAL OF THE STORY (or "How this can be applied to the writing process"):

Conflict is necessary to help your protagonist and other characters (including the antagonist!) grow.  Don't be gentle!  The more they need to grow, the more you need to throw at them.  But make each conflict meaningful.  Unlike real life, problems in your story need to work together and have meaning. 

If your character needs to learn patience, make her wait.  And wait.  And wait.

If he needs to learn how to ask for help, put him in situations he can't get out of on his own.

Bend those characters to the breaking point, then push just a bit more.  They'll either fall and rise greater than ever or they'll begin to push back.

And that's what makes for a good story.

~ Lysandra James ~

Obligatory End-of Post Question:
How have your trials shaped you?

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