If you have been paying attention to the news – or live in the Pacific Northwest – you know that the Northwestern part of the United States is currently in the middle of a heat wave. This actually reinforces my idea that inspiration for writing can come from anywhere, because it has inspired this blog post!
Many people go into writing thinking that there needs to be some sort of antagonist. That every good story needs to have some central scapegoat to blame for all the bad things that happen to the protagonist. While it is true that every story needs a good conflict (otherwise it’s not a very exciting story), that conflict doesn’t need to stem from a singular source, or even be manmade. The weather alone can serve as a great source of conflict for your stories!
Jack London was quite skilled at creating stories where the weather tended to serve as the primary antagonist. Many of his stories focus on people and/or animals trying to survive the harsh winter conditions of Northern Canada. We also have seen this type of conflict in movies, such as “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks as a person trapped on a deserted island. Video games also can feature this, such as the excellent game “Kona.” In that game, the main antagonist actually is the harsh winter weather, as you have to explore a seemingly deserted village looking for clues without freezing to death in the process.
The idea of man vs. the elements has been around for a long time, and can be found in many aspects of our history. Consider the various stories about winter weather, hurricanes, thunderstorms and tornadoes. The Titanic was sunk by an iceberg. Pompeii was destroyed by a volcano. More than 300 people have died trying to climb Mt. Everest – and most of them are still on the mountain, buried by snow or ice.
The central conflict for such stories doesn’t really focus on trying to overcome the elements. How can one person fight a hurricane? No, in many cases, the central conflict is, quite simply, one of survival. Can your characters survive the onslaught of weather? Sometimes the answer is “no,” but that can make for a pretty thrilling story in itself.
So use that as inspiration! If you are trying to come up with a new story idea and are trying to decide on a central villain, ask yourself – do you even need a villain? What if the main obstacle to your character’s goals is something that cannot be defeated? What if your characters start with one goal in mind, but then it radically shifts to simply trying to survive a sudden storm? If anything else, it could be fun to explore this concept while you experiment with writing.
Until next time, stay cool and keep on writing!