April 3, 2010

Happily Ever After is Hard Work!

In my church, we're called upon to serve in various areas. We don't have a paid clergy. Recently, I was asked to be a part of the youth program. I now work with the young women (ages 12-18) which I absolutely LOVE.

As part of this job, I watch what's called the Young Women General Broadcast where the world leaders of the church speak directly to the young women, their mothers, and the young women leaders (that's me!).

Overall, it was very nice, but President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (second counselor over the entire church) gave a talk that really struck a chord with me. He began talking about fairy tales and all the adversities the characters go through before they reach their "happily ever after".

He went on to talk about how we need the bitter in order to taste the sweet. A marathon runner feels so fantastic at the finish line because of the hours of pain she experienced before. He tells of his personal experiences with heartache as he tried to win the heart of a beautiful girl (and how sweet it was when he did).

I can't wait to look up this talk later. It should be here soon.

But it got me thinking.

We all suffer. Some more than others. And sometimes we feel very much alone. President Uchtdorf encouraged us to turn to the Lord, who knows you so well and is familiar with your adversity.

But, obsessive nerd that I am, I thought about fiction. We're told that a character must suffer in order to be interesting. There needs to be something at stake. There needs to be conflict. Otherwise, what's the point? It's boring.

Why? Don't we strive for easy lives? Wouldn't it be great if our characters could be interesting and carefree?

I think that everyone is looking for their own "happily ever after", but it's not easy. I think, as humans living this life, we like to know that we're not the only ones that have to work for our happy ending. We want to see others overcome adversity and hardship so we can have more hope for our own circumstances.

Sure, a character's hardship may come from aliens or dragons or ninjas, but that just makes it all the better. We're taken out of our own worlds and sent into a new one.

Even in this new world, completely different from our own, there is hardship. There's pain and suffering and struggle. My conflicts seem normal by comparison. They seem more... conquerable.

All characters have to have flaws for the same reason. We lose interest if a character is flawless and wonderful in every way. Because then we can tell ourselves: if that (imperfect) character can overcome her problems, I have a chance too.

Hardship is necessary, in life and fiction. Without it, we can't grow. We wouldn't learn anything, and we'd be helpless as infants. Yes, it's hard. Of course it is. That's the point.

Just remember: the harder you have to work for something, the sweeter it is.


Alex said...

I read this and it reminded me of one of my own thoughts on the dilemmas of protagonists in stories.

It is something you have spoke of before but, to me, the pain of a character can reveal something about that character that I never knew was there yet, on revision, I see it as an attribute that has defined them for a while; just not acknowledged by myself

Unknown said...

Absolutely. We understand ourselves (and our characters) better through adversity. Thanks for adding that.

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