Uncomfort Zone

Phil: Any job-hunting will hopefully afford the opportunity to visit different workplaces for interview. An important part of the process for the interviewee is deciding if you can fit in to that particular environment.

A few days ago, I found myself wearing doing my best to look smart, perching on a sofa about 6 inches too low and looking around the office I was in. It was a very nice, modern office and yet as I watched the undoubtedly very nice people going about their business, I knew in my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t fit in. This feeling probably contributed to a less than stellar performance in the interview itself.

In real life this is a problem, in fiction, it is an opportunity. Without conflict there is no story. You can’t have resolution either and hence no happy ending.

Taking characters out of their comfort zone is important. Sometimes you do it just for fun such as our depositing Kelvin from IT into a HR department full of lewd comments. We know he’s uncomfortable and it’s difficult not to find that funny, no matter how much we also laugh at his tormentors as well. If you’ve ever been the nerdy bloke in IT or even met him then you’ll recognise the situation. If you recognise the reason for the lewdness then it wasn’t you, I was inspired by someone else…

Emotions can supply even greater conflict. It’s traditional in chick-lit that the main character has some sort of tug on the heartstrings which induces conflict. This is the worst sort as you can’t run away from it. Even curled up in solitary occupation of a sofa in an empty room it’s there, sometime even more than when there are distractions available. You can run but never hide from some things.

But how much discomfort to impose on your characters ?

There has been a trend for the last few years for “Misery Stories” – books which start with a rape and get steadily grimmer. That’s not what we want. It’s not funny for a start and I find it difficult to understand how anyone reads that sort of thing for entertainment. Presumably there is a blooming good denouement at the end to stop the reader heading for the knife drawer. In that respect perhaps it’s like the feeling you get climbing off the cross-trainer (insert your prefered gym torture device here).

No, we do things to our characters but there is always resolution and after a few discussions, I wanted to kill someone off and Candice wouldn’t let me, we resolved most of them. Most, but not all. After all, there is Book 2 to consider.


Filed under Phil, Writing

2 responses to “Uncomfort Zone

  1. Reminds me of some writing advice I once read. “Identify your character’s personality. What do they want, what do they need, what fulfils them? What will be the worst thing to ever happen to them? The very worst. Picture it. Imagine it. Now do THAT to them.”

  2. Must be nice to inflict your worst horrors on your characters or get your own back on those that have bullied you or have been just plain nasty in the past. Ricky Gervaise has shown the humour in putting characters in uncomfortable situations. What I would like to put Mr. Gervaise through is probably unprintable…….

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