Friction fosters change
Literary analysis at the fifth grade level involves students examining the plot line of a story using a problem/solution structure. While people avoid conflict, characters without problems wouldn’t grow and change resulting in a boring story. Publishers want page turners, so authors deliver conflict in every chapter.
When a character falls asleep to an area in life that’s out of balance, conflict arises to wake them up to deal with the previously hidden issue. Fixing problems requires that they be brought to the surface.
The cause of the friction can usually be traced back to an emotion the character was experiencing. Exposed feelings are often uncomfortable. Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
Good authors hook us as we identify with the emotions of the characters. We can relate to them as they avoid feeling their feelings not wanting to move out of their comfort zone.
While friction is the fuel for change, a character’s need to preserve the status quo is often strong. Since feeling better and experiencing more peace is desirable, changing bad habits is hard.
The point at which you feel discomfort is when transformation can begin. Fear can cause characters to freeze up like a deer in headlights. As they face the fear the novel moves to its climax. The rising action peaks in slow motion.
Many actions can be taken to bring about resolution. Clearing up the old feelings and habits makes room for the new. Feeling connected to something vaster such as helping another can motivate change. Seeing a situation with fresh eyes like through the perspective of another character can also bring about personal transformation.
After numerous plot twists, readers breathe a sigh of relief when resolution finally comes.
The long awaited solution to the overarching problem leaves the reader satisfied. Problem resolution makes room to expand the character’s capacity for goodness often inspiring taking action in the world.
Time for Kids, the current events magazine, arrived bringing news of global conflicts. Seeing the macrocosm helped students examine the microcosm. Fighting for liberation from tyranny meant renewed protests, but when applied to internal conflict it can also trigger transformation.
Minds can enslave you with the tyranny of obsessive thoughts such as worry if others like you and concerns about your appearance. Characters who give us a window into their internal world help us to change our thinking.
As Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we want the world to change, we as people have to change.
Students often have a harder time identifying the internal conflict of the character than the struggles between characters. Battling fears can result in taking risks that bring about changes like the heroes and heroines of our stories.
Many are interested, but only a few are truly committed to embodying change. William Ward said:
“To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
…To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because,
the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
…Only a person who risks is free.
The pessimist complains about the wind;
The optimist expects it to change;
And the realist adjusts the sails.”
Our favorite heroes and heroines demonstrate radical aliveness by taking risks. They passionately take on life, embodying whatever atomic blast of change that confronts them.
Even though they don’t know where it will carry them, they just say yes. Are you ready to embody life this fully?
Make yourself available in the moment to do the good you’re here to do. Activate your inner reserves and be the hero or heroine of your story. When emotions threaten to choke you, take a refreshing breathe and risk fostering some friction because it promotes change.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at email@example.com.