Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's All In The Perception

 by Marjorie Brody

My blood pressure soars to a startling new high. Worry scurries around my brain like a ferret on the loose. Anxiety about how to face the next crisis—they’re coming at me faster than I can handle—makes it near impossible to stay focused. And squeezing in physical exercise? You’ve got to be kidding. Jog, walk—even just to stretch—means taking away time from . . . Ev. Re. Thing.

And what about the elephant in the room? That formidable, unacknowledged, ever-present pachyderm: When am I going to write? When I don’t write, I get grumpy. When I get grumpy, my stress grows faster than dandelions after a rain.

“Breeeeeeeeath,” I tell myself. “Let the stressors flow over you.”

Yeah, like right.

Then one morning, I’m driving my spouse to his physical therapy appointment (you don’t have to point out my hypocrisy: taking care of his body while neglecting my own) and I’m hit with a realization. An epiphany. Are you ready for this? Because I think it’s huge. I mean, lower-your-blood-pressure huge. Unwind-your-cluttered-head huge. Loosen-your-tense-muscles huge. As soon as I think it, my breathing evens and calms.

I am the protagonist in my life story.

Is this like a duh-I-should’ve-had-a-V-8 moment? No, it’s really deeper than that. Just go along with me for a moment.

What do the best authors do to their protagonists?

They confront them with obstacle after obstacle. Intensifying their stress, increasing the complexity and seriousness of their crises.

They block simple solutions.

They give their characters a goal. An overarching, driving desire. (Mine’s to finish my next novel by the end of the year. So the clock is ticking.)

And then . . .

The authors sit back and observe the protagonist’s actions. Because how the protagonist tackles those difficulties reveals her character, her internal fortitude. Will she achieve her goal? Will she grow and become a better, stronger person for having lived through, and overcome, the obstacles she faces? Or, will those trials and tribulations bury her?

Voilà. A new perception.

I almost want to shout at the world, “Come on. Hit me with your best stressor. Make it extreme. Make it sudden. Pile them on.”

But the word stressor has lost its impact. Because of my new perspective, I now view these challenges as opportunities to explore what I’m really made of, to discover if I’ve got the right stuff to be a worthy protagonist.

I can only hope that when I reach the end of my life’s story, whoever’s reading my actions will think, Now there’s a character I admire. There’s a character I respect. There’s a character I applaud.

What helps you handle a barrage of stressful occurrences?

Marjorie Brody is an award-winning author and Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her short stories appear in literary magazines and the Short Story America Anthology, Vols. I, II and III. Her debut psychological suspense novel, TWISTED, was awarded an Honorable Mention at the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival and won the Texas Association of Authors 2014 Best Young Adult Fiction Book Award. TWISTED is available in digital and print athttp://tinyurl.com/cvl5why or http://tinyurl.com/bqcgywl.
Marjorie invites you to visit her at www.marjoriespages.com.


  1. I had an aha moment about writing this week as well. My brain is always thinking something about writing. When I hear a news story, I wonder how it could lead to plot point. At the end of a TV show, I try to plot out some absurd or plausible way for the story to continue.

    Then it hit me. Why not look at the current block I have for continuing my novel like it was the end of this week's TV show. I needed to consider the plot from outside my writing plan and its structure. When I looked at my plot as if it wasn't mine, but another writer's it was freeing. I could see more options.

  2. What a great approach, Christine. These little "tricks" of the mind give us enough distance to get a fresh, and often revolutionary, perspective.


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