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How to be the Hero of your own Story

Last year I was excited to turn in a script of mine to a company that reads them and gives you a critique (for a small fee). I’d come far as a screenwriter and this one, I felt sure, was on the road to winning. It did get pretty good marks, except for one small thing my critic pointed out...

A woman tearing off her button up shirt to reveal a super hero underneath with the words "How to be the Heroine of your Story" emblazoned over the top of it

 

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That small thing, the critique pointed out:



My main character sucked. In fact, she was a bit of a dud.



She was hard to root for as a reader. Things in the script just seemed to happen to her and she spent the whole story merely reacting to those things.



"Where was this character’s backbone?" wondered my critic. When did she ever get a chance to turn the corner in this drama and become proactive?



Proactive — you know, someone who makes things happen in her world? Who begins to drive the story forward with her will and her intellect?



I remember pretty clearly looking up after having read that and thinking: Uh-oh.



Because he was right. My character was swept away by the plot, only making decisions in retrospect to what was happening to her. And as he helpfully pointed out, it’s hard to invest and root for a character who never seems to turn the tide in her favor and own her story.



As audiences we love characters who make things happen on the big screen. And we despise those who don’t. That’s pretty much screenwriting 101.



So, how the hell had I missed this?


And how was I going to fix it, when it was suddenly dawning on me that I wasn’t sure I believed in a proactive protagonist. Not in real life.


Do people *really* make things happen like that in their lives? Certainly, not anyone I knew in my immediate life. Aren’t our lives mostly made up of what life throws at us?


One minute it's a funeral, the next it’s winning the lottery.



Sure, good things happen, but don’t they just simply happen to us? Good and bad? Do we really have a say in them?



And that, I realized, is a problem. Hence the “uh-oh.”



It's a problem because I can’t write good scripts without proactive characters, but it’s also an "uh-oh" because I’m a life coach and cheerleader for the my readers & clients.



And how can I do that, if I don’t believe in this one big premise: that we have power, personal power, and more than that, that we can use that power to make things happen in our lives.


What kind of life coach or inspirational writer teaches you that your only power resides in merely how you react to what life throws at you?


Not a very good one, by my book, and not a terribly inspirational one. But also, I had another dawning realization: How do I write my own story believing this?



How do I author an amazing life for myself, if I don’t believe in a proactive, powerful hero? If I don’t believe I have that power? If I don't believe that proactive protagonist is me?



It was a rude awakening. One I’ve been thinking about ever since.



When you’re in your twenties a failure here or there, or even on a daily basis hardly gives you pause. You’ve got plenty of time to win, plenty of time to get it right.


And in our twenties it’s hard to imagine you won’t prevail at some point.


You never imagine the amount of losses, failures and close-but-not-quites you will have amassed by the time you’re somewhere in your forties or beyond. Nor the amount of circumstances life will have thrown at you. Some good, some bad.



And that's true for all of us, even the most successful among us. We all know the story of Thomas Edison, and how he had a 1000 failures before he invented the light bulb.



A thousand failures, and just one success.


Those losses, even when you win, can take their toll. And when you don’t win, or at least not yet, those loses can hit pretty painfully. It’s hard to remember in those moments that adage of “not never” just “not yet.”


And so that little critique has sent me on a months-long journey starting last year, and continuing on into this one. It's a journey that's only getting richer and deeper.



I can't say that I have it all figured out, whom among us ever does? But I've learned a couple of important things along the way that I can share:


1. Life isn’t a one way road.


We don’t have complete control over what happens to us. We are not the sole creators on this planet. We do often have to react to what life lobs at us. Circumstances are a real thing. No getting around that.


But, it’s also not a game of dodge-ball. We don’t need to spend time merely trying to duck and get out of the line of fire in life.


Tensing up and making contingencies for all the ways life could wrong, or fantasizing about lucky breaks. Neither is very helpful in getting happy or a life we love.


Living our life joyfully means accepting life is more of a tennis match.


Life lobs a ball our way, maybe It’s good, maybe it’s bad, but regardless, it’s our job to swing and lob it right back. It’s our job to push our agenda, our goals, our needs and wants into life.



2. It’s really hard to know ultimately what’s going to be a good or bad ball for us until we take a swing at it and see what happens.


Recently a heard the story of a very wealthy, prominent woman who went for an astrology reading. And the astrologist taking a look in her chart said to her:


“The chart shows great wealth, honor and power, but late in your life.”


As the woman was in her sixties and well-known in her field, even to him, he expected her to agree, and she did, but by responding: “Yes, I have a lovely life… for someone else.”



How many of us would turn down life lobbing us wealth, great honor and power? How many of us would look at that and think: That’s a bad ball coming my way. And yet...



For her, it was. It was wealth, honor and power in the wrong place. Turns out she had never wanted success in the field she was in.


Imagine, if she had decided to take aim, and lob it back, only someplace where it would make her happier? Imagine if she had been more proactive in her own story? Would she be happier?


All of which begs the question:



3. How do we become good at swinging back? At lobbing the ball in the direction we want it to go? At being proactive?



Well, I like what the above astrologer had to say about it:


Do you know what would make you happy? Soul happy?


Not King Midas happy. You know: the glitz and glamour of something that sounds good on paper, like turning things into gold with a mere touch, but in reality is deeply hollow and unfulfilling? Maybe even tragic?



Can you separate the fool's gold from the real stuff?

Being proactive is as simple as aiming the ball there: at what would make you truly happy and fulfilled.



Life gives you a dead car battery? And buying the new one you need wipes out your savings?


Perhaps, it’s an awakening that you’d prefer to have more money. A more secure and better paying job. Maybe secretly you’ve never been happy in that job anyway, even beyond the lack of money.


You swing the racket and send the ball back! WHACK! Time to look for another job.



And last:



4. Don’t take life so seriously. It’s just a game.


Circumstances happen. Life goes awry for us all, celebrities and mere mortals alike. Failures happens, usually a dime a dozen. But the fun isn’t just in the having. It’s also in playing of the game.


We relish and take pleasure in our own participation in life, win or lose, more than we can easily imagine.


People rarely regret the losses, they regret their failure to swing at the ball at all.



And success, in all sorts of games, is sweeter when it doesn’t come as easily as we’d like it too. At least, not that often.



We root for the good guys on screen, and for ourselves, when we struggle a little, don’t give-up, and ultimately prevail through taking action.



And with that, I’m off! But I hope this blog has helped to inspire you to take big action and be more audacious in your life! And to keep swinging at what life lobs at you. I will see you next week!


Much love & luck to you all,

Here's to your perseverance!



Desirée Sommer


 

Desirée Sommer is a former Interior Designer, and a current Writer/Speaker who helps people just like you Style, Beautify and make their lives Fun again!



She happily resides in the rural beauty of Idaho with her pet pooch Bree, where she gets to take epic hikes, and plot her next big adventure/road trip/travel destination.


 

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