I love stories with good drama and strong conflict, but I really prefer them in the books I read and write – not in my life. When I write, I can control what happens and when it happens, what the results are and I (usually) know in advance what the resolution will be and how the characters are going to benefit from what I just put them through. And I trust the authors I read to give me the same satisfactory resolution.
Sadly, this is not the case in real life.
T.S. Eliot wrote “April is the cruelest month” and for me, these last four weeks have borne that out. We had issues with health, money, cars, insurance and time. It seemed as though everything which is a priority, everything that is a focus in my life had a glitch of some kind or another. It was exhausting and deflating. I was so grateful to go to bed each night but worried about what the next day would hold. It’s been a while since I’ve been so happy to see a month change, but I have to say that I was glad and relieved to turn the calendars to May.
And while the best part is having all of these things in the past, the frustrating part is not knowing how or if I benefited at all from what we just went through. Yes, I was reminded that I can handle whatever comes to me. I was also reminded of how fortunate I am to have a very supportive and self-sufficient family (I made three trips to New Jersey from Massachusetts in four weeks and everyone managed to stay fed and get to where they needed to go). But did I really need this “learning opportunity”? I don’t think so.
What gets a character through the conflict is their goals and motivation. Weak goals and a lack of motivation will mean the conflict stops a character where they are. If the character is not determined, if the goal isn’t very important, then when the going gets tough – the character is staying on the couch watching the new season of Westworld. I’ve certainly found characters who haven’t been given enough of a goal to keep the reader turning pages when I’m going through my own work. In that case, there’s only one thing to do. Rewrite!
And in real life? There are no rewrites, per se. I can’t go back and fix April so that it “worked”. I suppose the good news is my goals and motivations – making things work for my family, being there for a sick relative, working through financial challenges – were more than strong enough. I didn’t give up. I got help when I needed it, found strength from past successes as well as the people who support me. Now that it’s May this most recent set of challenges is past and resolved. I can plan my days and actually stick to the plan without the unexpected getting in the way and rerouting my journey. Sure, there are more to come, but I’ve weathered this set and I’m due for a little smooth sailing.
There will be always more conflicts off the page. That’s life, they say. Hopefully, I will always have the strength and support to be able to shout “Plot twist!” and find the way forward.