How many times have you read a book where Mr Average is thrown into an extraordinarily strenuous adventure, and never a moment’s consideration that they may be ‘a wee bit tired’ or ‘suffer a spot of muscle ache’? Perhaps our heroine has to hang onto a windowsill by her finger tips, but she is not a former circus acrobat or the high school gymnastics queen.
It happens all too often. It’s as if they forget to feel pain, to ache, or indeed to suffer once their adventure kicks in. Even a regular jogger would be out of puff if they were suddenly expected to engage in a marathon length sprint!
The last thing we want is a whiny protagonist, but I do think it adds realism to our story if we see through their actions and words the suffering they endure. When I think of a really good example of a hero suffering, I always think of Indiana Jones—the guy spends most of the movie looking half-dead! That doesn’t stop him getting the job done, but you do get a deep sense of the effort involved.
It is often this gap between those natural physical limitations, and what they push themselves to achieve, where the character growth comes in.
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