The Loneliness Problem

I often look for similarities in great stories to see what works. One aspect that I see very often is that powerful stories resolve “the loneliness problem.”

Normally, we are never told that our protagonist is lonely, but it’s there in the background: Scrooge is miserly old man in a musty house. Harry Potter has no mother, father, or friends. Frodo lives all alone in his own aging mansion, and so on.

The loneliness problem can be solved in any number of ways.

The protagonist might find his or her true love. In heroic stories, for some reason, that doesn’t often come to pass—though Disney loves to do it. Some classics have a very romantic twist, with tales like Romancing the Stone.

But just as often, these stories end up being buddy movies. The whole theme of the first Harry Potter novel revolves around how to become a friend to others, and how to gain friends. Later, the friends unite into a band of warriors, as is common in heroic fiction.

In Jurassic Park, the protagonist is a rather lonely archaeologist who during the course of the movie seems to deepen a romantic interest in a woman, take on two surrogate children, become friends with a master of chaos theory, and so on. He doesn’t just end up with one relationship. He gets them all!

Just as often, a lonely child goes out in search of a parent. Sometimes they will find that parent, but just as often they will find a surrogate—someone who acts as a guide and parent to them.

Rarely do we ever see the protagonist end up alone. One example of course comes in Gone with the Wind, where the heroine wins love, but because of her selfish, spoiled ways, loses it again.

In other words, it seems that people are terribly, terribly lonely. We may not always be aware of it, but we crave parents, family, friends, lovers, and even children. The truth is, we’re always seeking to build new relationships and deepen old ones.

So when you’re devising your stories, consider how well your potential novel handles the loneliness problem.

 

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David Farland’s Writer’s Peak Workshop is coming up in November in Provo, Utah.  Get yourself ready for national novel writing month. Find the joy in writing again, and learn to overcome writer’s block and hesitation with neuro-linguistic programming coach Forrest Wolverton. This is a one-of-a-kind workshop where we tackle common problems that many writers face. Learn to set and keep your writing goals, re-balance your priorities, overcome setbacks, and get excited about your writing again!

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