Robyn, clever woman that she is, has pointed me to Doris Egan‘s essays. Doris writes science fiction, which of course I must now read because anybody who would write this particular essay: Why I Like Heroes With Unsolvable Problems is someone whose fiction I suspect I will like. Here’s a paragraph:
“Dramatic structure most often asks the question, “How will they solve this problem?” Character asks, “How will they adapt to this problem?” And it’s watching them attempt B while having to do A that evokes the flash of empathy in the audience — that in fact makes “A” worthwhile. Because, after all, a mere court case or a murder is not enough — we want to know how Sherlock Holmes will deal with this. Or Peter Wimsey or Fox Mulder or our boy Miles or Ally McBeal. We want the specifics, the style of this particular dance, the scent of the rose and not merely the dried petals.
We want a little bit of mess in the perfection of structure, and the hint that we have here a life that will go on after we close the book or turn off the television.
And that’s why I like heroes with unsolvable problems. “