It isn’t luxury or fame that makes us happy, it’s meaning and purpose.  Consequently, to make my writing relatable and exciting, I believe it must be built around a driving crisis that entices my protagonist to strive and overcome. 

That crisis has to ring so true that it jumps off the page and electrifies the reader with a tantalizing sense of worth and possibility.

8 thoughts on “Musings

  1. I like your concept: Crises are entertaining stories. But assertions about “happy,” “meaning,” and “purpose” are tricky. We can only posit what is “happy,” how it happens, what maintains it, and what degrades it.

    “Meaning,” and “purpose,” are equally hard to define as Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” and Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” demonstrate. Neither defines happiness; both describe elements of perspective and motivation.

    I believe much happiness is meaningless and purposeless. What are meaning and purpose to a bunch of poor African village laughing and playing? What are the meaning and purpose of love? To be happy?

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    • Generally, I’d say that meaning and purpose is a “healthy level of adversity.” Day-to-day challenge that is sustainable, doesn’t harm anyone, and causes one to grow and look forward to waking up. From what I understand, this is psychologically what allows people to work horrendously long hours. If they do so in an activity they find meaningful, then they have little to no qualms about it. It doesn’t need to be grandiose either; I think folks who live in remote locations do so because working to earn your water, food, and shelter are intensely fulfilling activities that make you appreciate life at a primal level. I suspect that we may actually be genetically wired to enjoy hunting and gathering, since we lived that way for so long as a species.

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  2. Once again, I’ll “shoot in the middle” on this one. Happiness is a result. It’s a necessary result, though. Now here is where Von Smith is on to something (my opinion). Happiness is not the same for everyone. My father was a perfect example of that. We always joked that he wasn’t happy unless he was at work bitching at coworkers about getting the job done. The laugh was that his blood pressure could probably be measured as going down when he was at work raising hell.
    The meaning and purpose are at the core of all of us and are a necessity for choosing to “continue breathing” each day. Again, Von Smith makes a good point that the specifics of our meaning and purpose in life are, on some levels, unique to the individual.
    So, to stay on topic about this being a major part of good stories, I’m “shooting in the middle”. What has to happen for a good story is present the strife, problem… whatever needs to be overcome. BUT it has to be taylored to fit the character. You have to present the character(s) in a manner that is not necessarily relatable to the reader, but DEFINITIVELY related to the conflict of the story. What drives the character to want to solve the problem and/or overcome the issue? Well the issue/problem is likely somewhat generic to start. Many of us have similar problems and conflicts in our lives. The question is specifics and the triggers that make us want to get off our butts and “be the heroes” in our own story… or in a story that we’re writing. What is it about the problem that sets the character to not just want but NEED to solve it. Where is the drive to overcome the conflict and look for emotional satisfaction (happiness, anyone???) on the other side of that issue?
    I see bad shit on the news daily, but some things really get under my skin. That is what electrifies the story. It’s about giving the character the depth needed to understand what drives him/her. It’s about having the reader relate to what it feels like to be driven. The what and how of it helps, but I, personally, have had zero care about an issue in a story. What got me interested was that I understood how it “pissed off” the character, and I empathized with the tension itself. I wanted to see the character succeed. I was rooting for the character complete “the mission”.
    Then if the end result of the issue happens to have broader repercussions, that’s just icing on the cake.
    Wade Watts saved the Oasis after all. But the issue was realizing that he had to do something that reconnected him with the real world. He had to understand the lesson that Halliday learned too late. The trigger was a need for love. The extra color and hyped heroism was the fact that he ended up being able to influence society to achieve that same connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that happiness is not the same for everyone, and I actually think that’s what makes stories amazing. You can have a character with very different inclinations and problems become relatable to the audience because—in my opinion anyway—a sense of meaning and purpose, when communicated skillfully, become relatable to everyone, as we are all seeking it. (I think we’re saying the same thing…not sure, though.)

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