This is going to be coloured by the events of the past weekend, when I went LARPing and – for the first time in a while – completely failed to find my keen. I couldn’t figure out why for ages. Everything in the character’s life was going right, people were taking on responsibilities so she wasn’t rushed off her feet, and it all seemed pretty easy sailing. So what on earth was the problem?
It wasn’t until yesterday, when I was discussing it with a friend, that I made the fundamental realisation: the character has completed a story arc. She has grown as a person, accepted and adapted to her new life, achieved her driving goals and overcome a major character flaw (just about). She’s found happiness.
Now, in real life of course happiness isn’t a permanent state – you need to continue working for it. In a story, though, that isn’t always the case. The hero walks off into the sunset, or the happy couple get married, or whatever. Happiness achieved, level up, end of. Yes, sometimes it moves on to the next book in the series, when a new challenge has arisen, but the point is that happiness / success is the end goal. When there is nothing left to strive against, there is no more story. Happiness is the death of stories.
Okay, perhaps a touch melodramatic, but you take my meaning.
So what happens to characters when the final curtain has come down, and the sunset is over? I guess they struggle on, trying not to fall into mediocrity whilst maintaining contentment. That’s a tough balancing act. In this case, I think I just need to find the character another impossible goal.