Overcoming the impossible. Surviving against all odds. Beating the uncrushable bad guy. Those are the kinds of stories that stick with you after you put the book down, or leave the theater.
I saw Gravity last weekend, and I kept thinking about it all week. I wondered why I couldn’t get the movie out of my head. The 3D special effects were great, but that wasn’t it. I realized, it was the story. How (spoiler alert) against all odds, humans can dig down and find the strength to survive the absolute unsurvivable.
*Warning: this next section is full of spoilers to those who have been buried under a literary rock.*
In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo (more hobbit than human, but same idea) needs to destroy Sauron’s ring, and hunted by wraiths, orcs, and spiders all the way to Mount Doom.
In the Life of Pi, Pi is trapped in the middle of the ocean with nothing except a lifeboat and an agressive adult tiger.
In Harry Potter, Harry is being hunted by a villain who is so invincible that his soul would need to be destroyed seven times to be taken down.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place to play a game against 23 other competitors in which only one comes out alive.
I could go on. It’s not a theme that’s present in all great stories, but when it’s there, it leaves you thinking about it days after you’ve finished it.
Why is the theme so inspiring? Perhaps it gives us normal humans hope that we can survive the mundane little challenges we face day-to-day if these epic characters can beat what they’re up against.
The theme of human resilience is prevalent in my own novel. As I’ve worked on revising my first chapter over and over this week, I’m hoping to set that up well. It’s not easy to make your characters face unbeatable odds, and make it seem realistic that they could somehow overcome them.