Pick Up Your Lantern

Yesterday’s Daily Minute had David Ellis talking about the trick of putting your protagonist in danger. Particularly if you are working in a series, threatening your hero or heroine’s life does ask a certain added degree of willing suspension of disbelief, as everyone in the room knows that if this person dies there will be no next book. Even if you don’t work in a series, unless you’re writing a tragedy of sorts, no matter how dire a situation, the hero is probably going to live. There are other perils beyond loss of life—loss of love, loss of faith, loss of dignity—all of which are guns of sorts pointed at our protagonists that we ask our reader to believe might be fired. In most stories these metaphorical guns are fired and score direct hits, leaving the hero or heroine shattered and in need of repair.

And repair is almost always what our stories are all about. Why? Because everyone is born with love, faith, and dignity, but in losing any one of these and finding them again we become conscious. This is often frightening at first as we realize that we can give up any one of these pillars of our happiness with nothing more than a thought, such as, “No one loves me.” Think it, and it is true for exactly as long as you believe it.

And so stranded as we are, we must find our road back to ourselves. Fiction is filled with such journeys. Where else, really, can the hero go? Everyone’s journey, however, is unique, and try as we may to convince others that if they would only follow our footsteps they would be happy too—in truth, like knights looking for the grail, if anyone were to follow our path they would become lost.

Stories are not road maps nor were they ever intended to be. As we watch another soul, real or imagined, wend their way home from the forest, we are compelled to pick up our own lantern and continue on. Tales of happy returns spark memories within ourselves of that to which we yearn, and that spark lights a beacon in the distance toward which we might turn. Everything we seek we already know, but in finding our way home the world outside our door grows friendlier, as we come to understand that all road eventually lead to one place.

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