Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Right Amount of Struggle

It's hard to subject your characters to the right amount of difficulty. I look at popular fiction for some ideas on this, but I usually think the books have done it wrong. Jeffrey Deaver makes it a bit too easy on his super-genius character Lincoln Rhyme in The Skin Collector. Suzanne Collins makes it way too hard for Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games books, especially Catching Fire. (She has to have a secret group conspiring to drag her through her challenge without letting her know until after the fact.)

When I shake my head at fiction, I may turn to business articles on leadership. Struggle or difficulty or failure are not topics that come up often, but sometimes.
Societally we think struggle is a negative. There’s a cultural stigma attached to it.
Real leaders know that it’s not all smiley faces. Struggle and leadership go hand in hand, but we don’t talk about it enough. Leadership books are not written from the vantage point of struggle--even though leadership is based on the art of struggle. We look for success stories but unfortunately we draw the wrong conclusions.
This came from an interesting Q&A. I agree with the premise (with a caveat). We do think struggle is a negative for ourselves, but we want our heroes to have a struggle-story somewhere in the past. We want our fiction to be about struggle we'll never have to feel.

So, again, we come to the idea of getting the right kind of struggle. The right kind of difficulty, the right kind of monster.

I'm still trying to come up with a good barometer. Wish me luck.

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