Course of Human Events
When In The Course Of Human Events
“When in the Course of human events…”
These seven words are the beginning of one of the greatest American documents ever written, The Declaration of Independence. In and of themselves, they hold an eloquence and a power that changed the world. They helped start a war and birth a nation. But not everything in life (or writing) needs to be an event.
If our lives were filled with one event after another, exhaustion would get the better of us and, eventually, we would shut down. We would miss the opportunity to enjoy the happy events and mourn the sad ones; birth, death, celebrations of all types would be lost and all we would have would be emotional turmoil. That is neither good nor productive.
Have you ever read a book—or watched a movie, for that matter—that seemed to contain too much action? While trying to enjoy it, your mind misses out on a lot of what is going on. In a book, it isn’t quite as bad since you can always reread a passage or a page (or a chapter) if you have to, but who wants to do that? It is also unrealistic to assume your characters’ lives have to be a continuous string of events. In everything, there needs to be a time of reflection.
Frodo needed the opportunity to see where his adventure began in order to realize where he wanted it to end. If it wasn’t for this chance to reflect, he would have never gotten the chance to see what was truly important. Neither would we, as the reader, know what the character truly lived for. Without that knowledge, how could we even care about them?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, we need to know when our characters don’t have enough events. If there is an over-trivialization of their lives, is their story really worth telling…is it even their story? If you know where their story starts (and why,) list the events and then see if your story moves too slow or too fast. All that you need to do at that point is find the balance.
Just thought I would jot this down.