Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Building Character: Frustration

Good books contain conflict. Tolkien himself points out in The Fellowship of the Ring that when things are great, time flies yet no one want to read about it (this happens during the recovery of Frodo at Rivendell before The Fellowship is formed).

How is conflict created? Well, that is the dilemma, isn't it? Conflict generally occurs when the desire of the main character is frustrated.

Yesterday, I got a third bill in the mail from a company I never employed, about a charge I never incurred that was on its way to collections. Was I frustrated? You betcha (furious is more accurate; I've been dealing with this company for a while now). I got on the phone, found what sounded like a competent customer service rep and, God willing, got the issue resolved. 'Cause my next phone call will be a lawyer.

Also yesterday, I was supposed to attend a webinar. I waited faithfully by the keyboard for the starting time. I fed the cats to keep them occupied while I learned. I gave the dog a bone. I logged on just in time to hear the webinar was over. How that happened, I don't know, but I can tell you, I was frustrated. I went back to the original website, found I could re-register for tonight and did so. I'll be logging on every hour and half hour for three hours before the posted start time this go 'round. Fool me twice...

Both times, frustration spurred me to make a change in my circumstances. I acted on my environment to remove the offense.

That's all a good story is. A frustrated character doing what it takes to put his life in order. Generally speaking, the greater the frustration - the greater the obstacles - the better the story.

My life is pretty boring most of the time. I like it that way. But my stories should be filled with frustrating moments and people finding ways around or through them.

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