Plot armor. The main character of a story needs to remain in the story, alive and well. Otherwise, the story isn’t… well, a story. Not about the original character, anyway. Point is, plot armor is a device found in fiction, and not real life. I’d say ‘unfortunately’, but we’re trying to work with reality here, not complaining about what isn’t. So no plot armor for us, no point in complaining about it, might as well face the music.
We are not main characters.
When the metaphorical shit hits the imaginary fan, there won’t be some deus ex machina to pull our asses out of the fire.
When we get cornered by the person with intent to do us harm, there won’t be somebody who appears and fights off the enemy, then joins our little group of adventurers.
We help ourselves, or don’t rely on help appearing miraculously.
We all think we’re main characters. To some extent, that’s true; we’re all main characters in our own lives.
But our world isn’t one built by an author. It’s not a world with an overarching plot involving the main characters who are protected from or bounce back from difficulties because it advances the plot along.
We’re protected from setbacks, or recover from them, because we prepare for them or have the mental resilience for it.
Sometimes we don’t.
In a story’s world, opportunities appear and memorable events happen to the main character because they’re the main character.
In our world, you can sit in your room and stare, unmoving, at a screen for eight hours.
In a story’s world, that’s when the MC’s friends burst in and drag them out and they get into some crazy adventure and end up defeating the shadow monster lurking in the underground metro complex.
In our world, our friends will eventually take the hint and stop inviting us out, disappearing one by one.
This is freeing. And kind of scary.
Here’s the cliche: this means we have the power to rewrite our plot.
Of course, we hear it all the time: “You have the power to change your life.”…”Only you can make the change you want in your life.”….”Our freedom is our biggest privilege and scariest shackle.”
But why, really? The cliche never really struck me as true until I lived the truth for myself. I’ll do my best to put it into words.
When you’re sitting in your room staring at a screen, refreshing the reddit page or burning through countless self-help articles, for hours at time, you could be out there doing so much.
Imagine that. Viscerally feel it. At this moment, you could be sitting in the local cafe, laughing and joking with your friends. Feel the chair underneath you, the smell of the brewing coffee, the ambient buzz of the coffeehouse.
You could be lifting or running or doing yoga. You could feel your fingers closing around the rough grip of the bar, feel that burn in your lungs, feel the crushing heaviness at the bottom of your last rep.
You’re sitting on your ass in a 12 foot by 15 foot room. Imagine somebody looking at you from the outside perspective. You look like a phone zombie. (Exact words my friend used to describe me once.)
You could be setting up your campsite, making a fire pit with stones and pitching your tent.
You could be saying hi to that blonde cutie in the blue tanktop. You could be setting up a date with Jack from Anatomy & Physiology 212 (and you might even study for the actual class!) or lounging poolside in the bright sun.
A scene from a not-so-distant past: I’m sitting, slouched over until my chin’s four inches in front of my chest. I hadn’t moved in two hours, reading nothing but poor fiction written as wish fulfillment for and by people like me.
And why and how? Because it was the choice I made, one that I kept making until I wanted to make a different one.
In our world, nothing happens because it needs to happen. There is no need.
Things happen because we make them happen. Cliche? Rephrase: things happen because we feel like they need to happen, so we put one foot forward and take a step, raise a hand, grasp something, and will the environment around us to change by sheer force of our minds and bodies.
So it’s scary. To know that you’re (I was) sitting there, uselessly passing time and spending it like you’re a time trillionaire and have as much as you want, and it’s all on you, you can’t say it’s because of anything else.
It’s powerful. To know that you don’t have to sit on your ass and watch the clock march forward, round and round. You can get up. Your hands can reach out and grab a pan and cook some food. Your feet can carry you to the grass outside.
We don’t have plot armor, yes, but that means our movement isn’t restricted by it.