By Davalynn Spencer
When we hear that people have experience in a particular field or endeavor, we often equate that experience with success and only success. However, if that were the case, their experience would not be genuine.
Last month at a multi-author event for the local college, I met a woman who is a licensed pilot. She’s logged many hours in the cockpit as the PIC – Pilot in Command. However, her knowledge of aerodynamics and her skill at breaking gravity’s grip often cause her great fear when she flies on commercial airlines.
I expected just the opposite.
As a frequent international flier, she explained that she always pays close attention to the pilots for her flights. The young ones make her nervous, she said. Not because they’re less qualified to fly the massive commercial airliners, but because they are less likely to have experienced the many things that can go wrong several miles above terra firma.
She is most comfortable with pilots who have a military background. Their level of “been there, done that” usually involves mechanical failures, life-threatening weather conditions, and calls for split-second decision making.
She draws comfort from their hard times. I drew conclusions from her comments.
As believers in an omnipotent and loving God, we know that nothing is impossible when He is involved. We know that He is always with us, working everything out for our good. But we are less comfortable with reminders of the turbulence and trials that await us.
We may not be aware of others observing our troubles, but when we’re slammed against the wall and Jesus squeezes out through the cracks in our lives, people see it. Because we suffer as they suffer—yet survive, even thrive—they find hope that they can too.
Similarly, when commanding situations from the cockpit of my author’s desk, I’m sometimes reluctant to let my characters fail. I like them. I want to protect them, keep them from hurtling through emotionally turbulent air. However, that’s unrealistic and impractical.
It’s also boring.
Every reader alive knows failure is part of the deal, and they want to see our protagonist hit the wall and get up again. They want to observe our characters overcoming challenges similar to their own.
Yes, these people know they’re reading fiction, but truth leaks from the cracks in our characters’ lives the same way it does in our own.
Author and literary agent Donald Maass tells writers to find the worst thing that can happen to their protagonist and put it in the book.
That idea makes me shiver. It also makes for good story.
Our characters must stumble, fall, and bleed along their developmental pathway. Authentic experience with any endeavor involves imperfection, failure, and growth. Abraham Lincoln and Michael Jordon are exceptional examples of this truth.
It’s the fall down, get up principal. Both sides of the equation are necessary.
Success comes when the latter outnumbers the former.Fall down, get up. Again. #ACFWBlogs @davalynnspencer #amwriting Click To Tweet
Davalynn Spencer writes Western romance set along the Front Range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. She is the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters and an award-winning rodeo journalist and former crime-beat reporter who caters to Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect at http://www.davalynnspencer.com.