Learning from Tragedy


Yesterday, I was honored to write the 9/11 tribute for this lovely blog. Today, I want to expand on this post and make it directly applicable to our Scribbleweed community.

We are writers. We eat and breathe conflict, pain, courage and victory. However, when tragedies occur in real life, we are often struck by their crudeness and lack of meaning.  As writers, we have a unique opportunity to use real-life tragedies to strengthen our writing.

Crisis reveals character.  We act on instinct in these situations and show the coward or hero we’ve already become. It is just as true in your writing as in real-life.

Character is revealed, not made,

in a moment of crisis.

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Belief shapes action. Securing a place in heaven is what motivated the suicide bombers to kill. Perhaps the same belief inspired some of our NYC heroes to save lives. They were all convinced they were doing the right thing. So what made them take different actions to accomplish the same thing? Understanding our character’s beliefs means digging into their psychology and seeing what actions they must take because of those beliefs.

Fear is the opposite of freedom. These ordinary people didn’t wait for a more qualified hero to come. They fought as if the outcome depended on their efforts alone. Is your protagonist doing the same? Are they the catalyst for the story solution, or is fear holding them back? By the mid-point of your story, your protagonist needs to be actively involved in the story solution.


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