From Writer Unboxed:
Last week my youngest daughter went back to work in her office for the first time since the pandemic began. It was harder than she expected. Her office is an open space with dozens of cubicles, and she found herself distracted by all the faces and voices, by the need to be “on” all day with people, self-conscious about others overhearing her as she conducted meetings from her cubicle. It felt, she said, like being thrown into the proverbial deep end of the pool and being told to swim. And this kid is an extrovert. Maybe the organization could have handled this transition better, she said.
And I said, How much experience do you think your company has with transitioning employees back to in-person work after a global pandemic? They’re learning as they go, too. We’re all figuring it out.
This made me think of one of the newer aspects of what we’ve been through the past few years, which is RECOVERY. As writers, we spend a lot of time thinking through the trials and tribulations our characters have to face. We all know the basic story diagram of background/inciting incident/rising action/climax/falling action/resolution. But who are our heroes after they’ve survived their ordeals? How do they get through their days, interact with the world? If their ordeal has affected other characters and the world they inhabit, how are those others coping? What does this new world look like?
As you write your characters into the latter parts of their story, as they come out the other side of whatever you’ve put them through, think through all the aspects of their recovery (or rebirth or redemption or healing). Flesh out their adaptation to their post-ordeal selves and post-ordeal world. Consider:
What they value. Whether your character has been through a broken love affair, an epic battle, a devastating loss, a challenging journey, or whatever hell you’ve unleashed upon them, it’s a good bet their priorities have changed. Look at us as we emerge into this post-pandemic world, for instance. I know I spend less time sweating (or doing) the small stuff and more time prioritizing people I love and making time to do things I genuinely enjoy. Connection of all kinds means more to me than ever, and I will never take hugging for granted again., What were your character’s priorities before? What are they now? How and why did what they’ve endured change those priorities?
Who they value. Facing down challenges has a way of clarifying your vision, so you see more clearly the people who lift you up, and the people who drag you down. Forged by adversity, it’s easier to turn your time and attention and energy toward those who restore you, and away from those who deplete you. Who are those others in your character’s life? How has their relationship to those closest to them changed?
The dark side. Listen, when you go through an ordeal of some kind, you rarely emerge unscathed. Sometimes hardship heightens our flaws and our fears; sometimes it scars us in ways that leave us forever different and a little (or a lot) damaged. Someone who was prone to melancholy before an ordeal may find themselves more likely to sink into black holes of despair afterwards; someone who was filled with hubris may become more patronizing and condescending. What doesn’t kill you may make you stronger, but it may not make you kinder, braver, calmer, or cheerier.
Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed