The Difference Between Happiness and Being Happy

I love conflict. Now that might sound a trifle confrontational (and all of you that know me know that is one thing I am NOT). It also might sound completely bizarre. But read any book and there is always a conflict in one way or another. Any TV show has conflict, any film. Most songs are built from some form of conflict. If there is not conflict in a story, then there is no story. What’s interesting about “once upon a time there lived a girl who had a lovely family, and when she was older, she met a lovely man and they got married and had a lovely family of their own”? Now, if it was “once upon a time there lived a girl who had a horrible family” or the girl met a horrible man, then it would be far more interesting to find out about, right?

For a while, I believed that life reflected this conflict rule. Look at the celebrities who have overcome great hardship, look at everything that goes on in the world – war, famine, flood, hatred, racism, violence, agony, illness, death – and tell me that none of this is conflict.

So there are people that are happy – brief, glittering moments of joy that promises light and laughter – whilst other people experience happiness – a full life of easiness and satisfaction. I think people fall into one of these two categories – those who are happy and those who have happiness. Now, these are interchangeable categories – people who are simply happy can transform into a life of happiness and vice versa (though it’s less preferable).

I always thought I was in the former category – bright moments of happiness in a long dark tunnel of hard work and a lot of rubbish. Most people do, in fairness (see above comment about the state of the world). I am not a lucky person – things do not fall into my lap, I am not blessed with good fortune in love, life, money or anything else you might think of. Every penny I earn, I have grafted for – and hard. Everything that I fill my life with I work really hard for. And yes, there are millions of people who do the same, and millions that don’t have it as easy as I do. Their grafting is to find food for the day, or stay alive for another week. I’m lucky in the sense that I live a relatively comfortable life with good friends, good family and an awesome cat.

But shit things still happen. Brush yourself off, get up again, right? If no one did, the world would be very depressing.

But this post isn’t about me. It’s about my characters.

The first thing I do is put my characters into conflict – war, famine, hatred, and so on – and see how they come up. Are they happy people or do they have happiness? Those that have happiness, I’m afraid to say, tend to get pushed to the periphery, whilst those that are occasionally happy are my main characters.

Now, here’s the issue. When characters are built on conflict – what happens when the conflict is gone? I’m not a “happy ever after” type of writer… I’ll take bittersweet to downright mortifying endings over that any day. Which is why I’m having a problem with Jarrett – he’s simply too… HAPPY. He’s not bothered by conflict in the way he should. And I suspect he has a crush on Kendra. In other words, he’s not behaving how I want him to.

Here’s my dilemma. Do I ignore my previous rule, and keep Jarrett filled with happiness in the centre of my plot (just to bring some lightness to the whole thing) or do I push him to one side in favour of more jaded characters like Ajax?

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3 Comments

Filed under Character Building, Writing Curves

3 responses to “The Difference Between Happiness and Being Happy

  1. I think I belong to the former category too. Actually I think everyone would say they belong to the first category. As for your character, i find that people tend to identify less with characters that are too happy. wouldn’t it better to find a point somewhere between ‘too happy’ and ‘jaded’? Just giving my opinion.

    • I agree. I think I’m finding it difficult to balance the two at the moment – any pointers?

      • Hmmm… Find a conflict that you have experience in and which people can relate to, then make your character express whatever that is. I have no clue how to write a book or how to make characters come to life. So I dont think i’ll be much help with pointers! 🙂

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