Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I'm a Professional Juggler

Not the fun kind. I wish I could entertain at parties, but I fear I just don’t have the flare. Today, I’m concentrating on life and how everyone juggles. Moving, changing jobs, finding jobs, kids, families, births, deaths, babysitting, dogsitting, finishing school, going back to school, writing, reading, dentist, doctor, bills, mortgage, rent, work… *Takes a deep breath* Anyone else exhausted? There is so much life “stress” and sometimes people tell me everything they handle and my mouth hangs open.

It started my mind turning today. How does “stress” apply to fiction? Or, more importantly, how does life stress effect characters?

Has anyone ever heard the saying, “life happens”? Boy, does it. In fiction, a world happens. It’s different, though. The heroine doesn’t have to worry about rocks hitting her windshield on the freeway, or someone hitting my (I mean her…) car at the grocery store and driving away. Her dog never has an accident in the house. Unless one of these “moves the plot forward”… but when does it? It never moves anything important forward in life, except perhaps the annoyance scale. These are all life stresses that drastically affect our lives on a day-to-day basis, but most of these are seemingly absent in fiction. Especially fantasy.

Here’s the kicker. Maybe, it’s even the reason I read fantasy… Some days, wouldn’t you rather fight an evil wizard than stare at your cracked windshield one more time? Give me a damn sword, people. I’ll save the world. Anything would be better than one more bill from the doctor’s office. So when I get home from wielding my sword on a daily basis (a metaphorical sword… nowhere close to being as cool as a real one)… I want to escape into a world without the little things plaguing it.

Sure, someone’s life is in the balance. A war evolves: good versus evil. The fate of the world hangs in the balance. Couples cling together in their last moments as everything around them, life as they know it, collapses. Drama… tension! But where’s the stress? Where’s the broken nail as they hang off the edge of an impossible cliff?

It’s absent. I’m thankful for it. I often hear “nobody wants to read that”… When it comes to stress, I agree. What do you think? Are you glad aspects of “real life” are missing? Have you read a story where the heroine is stressed out? Like normal people stressed out… I tried to think of all the stories I’ve read and I couldn’t think of a heroine who suffered from one of these small annoyances and allowed it to drastically influence her life. But doesn’t it influence yours? Is this a trait that separates our characters from ourselves?


  1. You know, I read a story the other day where the heroine was stressed out due to certain personal issues. Although the story was good and had romance in it, I found myself a bit depressed.

    That's why I like fantasy. I don't want to hear about the everyday stress of real life. I've got enough of that swimming around in my own head. Give me an apocalyptic war any day. :-)

  2. Well, those everyday stresses do influence what we do...and can certainly be used in fiction to nudge a plot forward. The heroine takes a new route to work because last time she took I-whatever a rock cracked her windshield. So, now she's in the exact right spot to witness the werewolf crossing the road...

    And what was the line in the runaway bus movie? Relationships begun amidst high stress situations seldom last? ;-)

  3. Everyday life reveals the mundane in most people's life. So that's what make fantasy and horror great as it drops unusual circumstances into what is normal, changing the hero or heroine's life maybe even forever.

  4. I do have to agree with what you're talking about. Probably why I don't really do contemporary. I want big and grand, I don't need to hear about anyone else having a problem with their toddler. I don't want to hear about anyone talking about losing baby weight. I talk about that stuff with my girlfriends if I need to get it off my chest. For my entertainment, I want escape!

  5. Hi Rosalie! That's exactly it! It was a good story, but it wasn't an escape, was it? :-)

    Hi Maureen! That's very true. She can take a different route to work because of a pesky life problem. But will the heroine stress about the rock? I'm not so sure.

    Hi Sapphire! Beyond the mundane would be a great tag line for fantasy. I'm sure someone's done it.

    Hi Danielle! That's very true! If I want to complain I can talk to a friend, but when I read fiction it's not to hear other people complain. Unless it's about the world ending. I'm sympathetic to that.

    Thank you everyone for allowing me to rant. I feel much for it and appreciate your comments.


  6. That's really true. Anything that doesn't "move the plot forward" is taken out. Even with small mundane things like brushing teeth, using the restroom, etc tend to be not be in fiction. Great post! I'm thankful of it too. I have enough going on in my life that I'd rather not hear about the heroine or hero of the novel I'm reading worrying about small things.

  7. Boy, Sarah summed up my own thoughts. Mundane stuff works, as long as it moves the plot. Otherwise...ha! It's as annoying as real life, and in fantasy, who wants that?