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February 2017

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There's a certain story pattern that I'm becoming more disenchanted with: the character who fights all sources of help and has to be dragged out of trouble or isolation by the repeated efforts of other characters. We all need a helping hand from time to time; we all benefit from those who reach out to us. Occasionally we will push away those who could help us. But at some point, a character who is going to grow will have to grab the helping hand, or seek it out. And secondary characters should not wait around forever for that moment, with endless patience and persistence, as if they have no lives of their own.

A character who is actively trying to help him/herself is also easier to root for. (Or a character who at least wants help, even if s/he doesn't know how get it, or has to fight off inner voices counseling a more self-destructive route.)


This story pattern has always bothered the hell out of me. Whenever I encounter it I yell at the character and begin to actively dislike them, because IDIOT, you need all the help you can get! Also, it's extremely boring, because you *know* that 9 times out of 10, they're eventually going to end up accepting the help, but be in worse circumstances because they were too stupid to have taken it from the get-go.
Glad I'm not the only one who yells at characters. ;-)
It could be because too many writers have been reading--and following--the classic pattern, as found in The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler.

When it's done well, you hardly notice. But too often it isn't done well...
Yes, a framework should be invisible rather than intrusive.