Writing and the Human Condition

There really is nothing new under the sun. I think Solomon was correct.

Perhaps, writers know this more than most people. Each time they string together a sentence, they are stepping on the toes of someone who has come before them. Each time they craft a character, they are describing countless other people who at one point roamed the face of the earth.

There are only a limited supply of storylines. Does the protagonist do it for greed or for love? Does she do it for revenge or for an ego boost? Is pride the downfall? Will he have the courage to go on? ¬†etc …

This is what makes writing great fiction such a difficult task. How can one stand out of the crowd and do something unique? Do you think the “Hunger Games” was not influenced by “The Most Dangerous Game?” Everyone is standing on the shoulders of someone else. Perhaps this is where sci-fi and fantasy are so popular with some authors – creating new worlds and aliens which have never been seen before; but, remarkably, even those are limited to the tried and true human-condition storylines we have all come to know and love.

The names may change and the details may vary, but the story is very much the same.

A key, at least as far as I currently see it, is to be as creative as possible within this framework – maximize the human drama to such a degree as to pull on the heartstrings of the reader – but you can’t cheat and be cheap about it or you’ll end up writing a Hallmark movie without even knowing it. (Sorry, I do think that Hallmark has its place. I personally would rather watch one of those than a vampire story, but I digress.)

Authenticity is crucial, and so, in my estimation, is purpose.Because ultimately, I believe everyone in life wants purpose or at least hopes there is some grand purpose for the madness around them. This is the element I love to write about – giving a protagonist an ultimate desire – a spine – a superobjective – a goal that is bigger than themselves which can highlight the human condition in all of us.

The themes and struggles remain the same, but the stories remain fresh as long as the readers are moved to be believe in the characters and hope for their success. At that point, it doesn’t even matter if the characters achieve their goals because the writer has achieved his or hers.

So I will continue writing about the human condition because I love writing about humans. Nothing is more fascinating. Endless possibilities – tried already in the past – can still live on as stories worth telling.

That’s what I try to do. Sometimes, I might even succeed.

Can we identify a real person’s ‘superobjective’ by how they actually behave in real life?

As I think about writing and character development and human behavior and a ton of other things, I keep going back to the fascinating world of the superobjective.

A superobjective is what acting coach Larry Moss calls the overarching goal or desire of a character’s existence. ¬†Whether acting or writing, keeping the superobjective in mind will keep your character grounded in reality and genuineness, while keeping their focus on what is most important.

But lately, as I’ve been thinking about how people react in certain circumstances, I started to think if people in real life actually have superobjectives? Is there something that I am striving for more than anything else? Hmmm …Can some reactions and behavior of the people around us be explained away by understanding what caused that behavior? Is there some hidden superobjective tucked under the surface which could make a person’s action suddenly make sense?

A few years back I was at a banquet where some individuals were being honored. A relative of a certain person who was to be honored discovered that this person’s name was left off of the program by mistake. Well that was it! The relative could not let it go. The complaining got boisterous and the person’t behavior so distracting that the event could not go on and everyone in the room was giving this person their attention. The relative demanded restitution and would not back down until promised that their due reward would be forthcoming.

Why was recognition so important to this person that she was willing to cause a scene of epic proportions over an honest oversight? Could it have been that this person has been fighting for respect their whole life? Could it have been that she was belittled at a child? Or made fun of? Or had the perception of not getting their just rewards for their effort? Was she a middle child who envied the praise given to an eldest? Was respect this person’s life superobjective and she was willing to go to any lengths to right the wrong of not getting what was perceived as her due respect?

Of course, this is all conjecture as I don’t know the person at all. But I find this whole line of pondering rather invigorating. It makes me want to go create a character and give her some tragic past which helps explain current behavior.

So are thinking about superobjectives useful in looking at real life behavior? I’m not sure. But this is the kind of stuff I think about in my free time. Only a writer, I suppose.