How is the Worst Thing the Luckiest Thing?

Robert McKee, author of Story and film guru, recommends in his seminars that writers ask ourselves this question: How can the worst thing that can happen to our characters also be the best thing that can happen to them?

Frodo gets the Ring of Power, is chased by orcs and the Nazgûl, almost dies on Mount Doom, but he saves the world.

Rust in True Detective has to quit his job, gets seduced by his partner’s wife, then beat up by his partner, then is suspected to be the mass murderer he’s chasing, and is almost killed by said mass murderer, but in his near-death coma, he discovers the love of his dead child. (OK, so that’s dark.)

Fox Mulder loses his sister, thinks she’s been abducted by aliens, is labeled crazy, but gains the best partner in the world, Scully, and they fall in love.

Does this hold true for life? Is the worst thing that happens the thing that teaches us the most?

How many times have you heard people say they’re grateful for cancer because it taught them how to live again? There’s a man in Denver who advocated for clemency for the murderer of his son. He says he’s learned the value of life by wanting the death penalty for years for this man, but then confronting the murderer and then finding compassion.

Does this idea hold true in your own writing? Or does this belong on some horror or therapy blog?

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Author: Theresa Crater

Award-winning author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver.

6 thoughts on “How is the Worst Thing the Luckiest Thing?”

  1. It might belong on a therapy blog, but it’s thought-provoking all the same. I agree, bad experiences can really bring out some good qualities in us – even if by only showing what we don’t want to be. You’ve inspired me to re-look at the climax of my work-in-progress and see if I can’t mine that feeling.

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  2. Oooh, great blog, Theresa! Isn’t that what they always say? Make a character’s weakness (bad luck?) into a positive by the end of a book? This is a great way at looking at exactly that!

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  3. It’s always hard to see what we might be learning from the bad times in our lives, but those are the very experiences that shape us (and allow us to draw upon the emotions when writing bad experiences for our characters). I know I haven’t experienced what I put my characters through, but I do think back to when I’ve felt fear, terror, helplessness, or anger, and I try to use that emotion to fuel the writing.

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