The Pursuit of Happiness

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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.

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5 responses »

  1. Impossible goals are what it’s all about. They give a drive to a character, however I find I have to find them in game otherwise they don’t flow naturally and then I don’t care enough about them.

  2. I felt the same the year after we defeated entropy. I had been struggling and striving and fully expected to die at the end of it… and then didn’t. It then took a while for things to gradually start feeling fulfilling again. They do again now, but in a completely different way to my character’s last story. And yes, new impossible goals definitely help, but something else helped equally if not more. I ended up using the fact I wasn’t so insanely busy and driven to spend time with other characters who my character loves, and started building on those relationships. It’s actually in those relationships that I found my keen again. Spend some time socialising and having deep and meaningful conversations with people…

    • … is not something the character is good at, with a scant handful of exceptions. But I take your point, and it’s a good one. Might spend more time with the Planar Cartography Club – I hear those guys are cool!

    • There’s a line from Karl Jenkins’ modern Requiem: ‘I have survived – I, who knew I would not. I must go home and try to live life.’ I think that about sums it up.

  3. Heh – we got to that stage a few years ago with the Eye of Urasni. We were going to retire/blow ourselves up in a spectacular fashion and then some people found us and totally reignited our keen. Wonder who those peeps could have been? 🙂

    Something will happen. Go looking for peril – keeps me entertained. 😀

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