As I begin writing the last few chapters of my next novel, it’s time to reveal to the reader one of the things I’ve hinted at throughout the book as I’ve been writing it: the hero’s want vs the hero’s need.
It’s an element of story that every good novel has. The protagonist starts out with something that he wants which seems reasonable and good. But as the final chapters arrive, he starts to realize that what he needs is in the end much better than what he wanted at the beginning of the story.
One of the reasons why we like stories so much is because they can be used as a guide to show us how to navigate this thing called life. Because in real life, we all struggle with wants and needs. And when I think about wants versus needs, I start to think about unanswered prayers. I’ve said a lot of prayers in my life for things that I wanted. But many of them weren’t answered as I expected.
Because when I didn’t get into the college that I wanted, I ended up at the school that I needed.
When I didn’t get that perfect job that I wanted, I wound up with an even better job that I needed.
When my business didn’t turn out like I wanted, I found a new passion for writing that I needed.
And when I didn’t get the girl I thought I wanted, I met my wife, the one I needed (hat tip to Garth).
Just a few examples that come to mind… I want to give more, but I need to get back to my novel!
So pay attention to the stories that you read and the movies that you see. Look for the thing that the hero wants. And compare that with the thing he gets in the end, the thing that he really needed all along. Use it as a guide for your own life, knowing that when your prayers go unanswered and you don’t get what you want, you’re just that much closer to getting the thing that you really need.
Because some of God’s greatest gifts really are unanswered prayers.