What makes a winner? A loser who won’t quit

In any story, in any genre, let your characters lose a battle. Only then will they find their strength.

What makes a great story?

Loss.

It’s not very complicated.

We all understand the pain, the heartbreak, the fear, and the frustrations of loss in our lives.

It’s part of our everyday existence.

Novels are no different.

Novels reflect life.

In Back Side of a Blue Moon, Eudora Durant was the biggest loser in a town filled farmers who had lost everything during the Great Depression. Hard times made her a more interesting character.

I wrote:

Eudora Durant paused just as the mule dragged the plow to the end of the cotton row.  She ran her fingers through her auburn hair – plastered with sweat against her face. Dirt caked her neck, and her mouth was as dry as the earth beneath her feet. Lord, it had been a long time between rains.

She felt the sun knife its way between her shoulder blades and shuddered when she realized the blue and yellow blooms on her feed sack dress had faded much like the flowers in the field. The dried red clay defied a plow point blunted from too many days in the cotton patch, and a new blister was forming like a cyst between the fingers of her right hand. 

Eudora glanced at the sky, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight, only turkey vultures circling overhead, and she figured they were betting that either she or the mule would drop before dark. They might be right.

The sun hung at three o’clock, and Eudora knew she had four good hours of daylight left before she and the mule could rest for the night, unless, of course, the Good Lord made the sun stand still like he did in the Old Testament. She felt as if she had been sentenced to punishment without ever being informed of the crime.

In life, we lose our way.

So do the characters of our novels.

We lose a loved one.

We lose our money.

We lose a friend.

Someone we love leaves us.

Love is gone.

Love is lost.

We fight our wars, personal and otherwise.

Battles are bitter.

Battles are deadly.

Battles end badly.

Wars are lost.

We believe that the best is yet to come.

But each day grows darker.

Each day is worse than the day before.

Hope is frayed

Hope unravels.

Hope is lost.

We strive to win.

Sometimes we do, but not always.

We strike back.

We’re struck down.

Triumph diminishes.

Triumph fades.

We glance at the scoreboard.

We have lost.

We file our wins away and forget them.

The losses stay with us always.

What could we have done differently?

We made the wrong choice.

Was there a right one?

We took the wrong road.

Which was the right one?

We told her we loved her.

But did we show it?

Did she ever know it?

Too often, we take life for granted.

That’s our fault.

That’s our loss.

But then, great stories are built on loss.

Let your characters lose their way.

Only then can they find it again.

Only then can your readers have something to cheer.

Let your characters lose a love.

Only then can they really understand what love is all about.

Only then will your characters fall in love with your story.

Let your characters lose a battle.

Only then will they find their strength.

Only then will they discover their resolve.

Only then will they know who they really are.

Lose?

It’s all right.

Lose badly?

That’s even better.

In any genre of novel, it’s so much more gratifying when those characters climb back to their feet, square their shoulders, cast their losses aside, and finally win the one battle most important in their lives.

Please click HERE to find Back Side of a Blue Moon on Amazon.

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  • Even better when the loss is self-chosen by the character. For what appear to her to be very good reasons. More to overcome.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You’re right, Alicia. Any loss makes for a good story. When the loss is the result of bad choices, the loss is self-inflicted and gives depth to both the story and the character.

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