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Schadenfreude for Writers

March 28, 2013

Schadenfreude

I learned recently that I was to be laid off from my current employer as of the end of the month. I immediately brushed up the ol’ resume and began shooting it out like shotgun fire to dozens of potential employers found on Craigslist and/or LinkedIn. While I was still working full-time and using every spare moment outside of work looking for other work, I was left with minimal, if any, time to focus on the ol’ novel (much less Tweeting about it).

So what is a part-time writer to do? Obviously an instance such as this takes priority over a “hobby” of writing. However, I will admit no defeat in holding off on my writing project for a few weeks since I depend on an income to support my writing habit. On the contrary, the time spent in conflict over the last 2 to 3 weeks has provided plenty of potential fodder for my story. Besides, what is a story without conflict?

If you’re lucky enough to have never experienced unemployment, count your blessings. The constant worry about how to pay next month’s rent, much less put cheap Mac & Cheese on the table is an ever-present struggle. Recently I have realized that my protagonist’s struggle can mirror my struggle. As I try to think of more rocks to throw at my main character, the “ah-ha!” moment comes when I determine that money is the answer. How will she pay the mortgage on the Bed-n-Breakfast? How will she pay for the much-needed maintenance on the historic home? What will she do when a dreaded coastal storm knocks down trees and rips off part of the roof?

The ideas are coming fast and furious. And I feel a little better about my problems because I can come up with worse problems for my story’s hero. Isn’t that the definition of Schadenfreude – to feel pleasure at others’ misfortunes?

So take my example and advice, if you are having problems creating conflict and plot twists, use that favorite German joy of misfortune and give your characters worse problems than your own.

 

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