There’s a phrase I’ve used a few times during my life: “Life got in the way…” I don’t know where I got it, but I use it to indicate that I had a goal for myself that I really wanted to achieve, but for whatever reason, I didn’t accomplish it.
I don’t mean that I didn’t get the dishes washed last night because ‘life got in the way’. No, that was because something good was on tv. It applies to those really big goals, like getting my BS in math. I haven’t accomplished that (yet) because other (life) things kept distracting me. Things like marriage, divorce, marriage, having kids, raising kids…
There’s another phrase I’ve used about my life, and I’ve seen other authors use it for their characters; “My life resembles a soap opera.”
In a way, these phrases are similar. They both indicate that your life goals have gotten off-track. “Life got in the way” might mean you made a decision to take a slightly different road than you had thought, and it is (or was) taking you longer to get back on course than you anticipated. Or you may have gotten swept away by your emotions and then had trouble steering your way back. A soap opera implies that just after you make a choice, things start working out, and you anticipate happiness, something hits the fan to send your emotions in a tailspin and nothing is under your control.
Neither of these phrases indicates a happy, carefree life we all dream about. But think about your favorite book’s plot. Does one of these phrases – or both – apply to the life of the main character?
In John’s next book, his main character was a member of an elite fighting squad. He had trained hard for that, and he had achieved a bit of rank. But now, several years after his last assignment (which he can’t remember, not even How Things Went Wrong), his boss for his office job has ordered him to take a vacation. He decides on a space cruise, an entire month of wandering around the universe, enjoying a new and different experience at each port of call. It promises to be truly relaxing. But things happen. Little things at first; an accidental bump at the wrong time, the feeling that someone is watching him. And things keep happening, getting bigger and more threatening, keeping his frayed nerves at the snapping point.
I did the same thing in my fantasy, Cali. Things keep happening to Cali that shatter her piece of mind and leave her feeling unprepared to be on the journey she is on. She hasn’t finished her training, doesn’t know how the world outside her tribe works, and now most of her spells have been stolen from her, so how can she possibly succeed? It is only when she starts to make her own decisions that she finally reaches the end of her search.
So I guess, art imitates life. However, art tends to stick to the exciting bits; the problems, the attempts, the combat and strife. Plans that don’t work, plans that do work but have unintended consequences.
Life might have their counterparts to that (although the death of an entire planet might not lie in the balance), but it also has bits that art would only imply, not drag the audience through. Like six weeks of utter, mind-numbing boredom of living in one room while the rest of the house is renovated.
Okay, I think I might be ready for just a little bit of excitement now, okay, life? Maybe I could win the lottery? Or we could sell the house in one day, so we could get on with the next step… buying our next house?
There’s another phrase about life that comes to mind right about now: Be careful what you wish for.