In our lives it’s easy to be hemmed back, tied down and pulled apart by others, society and the world. Each of us has a past in which there are circumstances and incidences that trouble us, to varying degrees of severity. Some of us have been through trauma, mental torment, illness and personal trials. It is these things that can define us and make us who we are today.

Regrettably, some of the terrible things that happen to us are all part of life, whether we like it or not. But though it is true these things may indeed define us, they don’t have to indefinitely. How we rise above the ordinary life is really what defines us and how we choose to deal with the troubles in our past determine to an extent what sort of future we enjoy.

It’s very easy to dwell on the anger, the resentment and the bitterness. But doing so only leads to a life of anger, regret and depression. If we take a look at some of the most famous stories we have read or films we have seen, the ones that stand out in our minds the most are those stories which resonate with our personal journey. We tend to react emotionally with stories that reflect our experiences. And the better a story engages with our personal experiences, the deeper and more profound they seem.

It doesn’t matter who the characters are, or how unreal the setting. It doesn’t matter if the story is about a real human family or fairies in a far away kingdom. If we connect with the situation and identify with the problems facing the protagonist, we are much more able to connect with the story.

Upon reflecting on the stories that have this very personal effect on us, there are some similarities between them. They all have a central character (or characters), who faces an uncertain future, who may find he or she is an outcast, disowned, belittled, ignored, abused or even in peril. These characters must overcome their circumstances, rise above the difficulties and find a way through. How they do this might depend on the support they have from others, their particular skills, the tools around them or a twist of fate. In the end the “how” is not so important. Before the dramatic conclusion, the character faces their greatest enemy, a past they can no longer escape or a great and terrible evil. What they are ultimately confronted with must seem insurmountable, making their final victory all the more powerful.

As for the characters themselves, they must appear ordinary. We must be able to place ourselves there in the story in their stead and whilst the circumstances might be different, there should always be some hope, no matter how small, of success as the story progresses.  The reader or viewer must believe in the inevitable victory of the protagonist. Of course there are stories which don’t have a satisfying ending. Indeed some stories leave us with more questions than answers. But generally it is true that we want the character to succeed and overcome, to vanquish evil or their personal demons. We cheer for them. We want to see justice done. We want them to rise above the ordinary, overcome adversity, challenge and defeat their adversary and in doing so, become extraordinary.

Copyright©2015 Paul G Day

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