Learning how to write about perseverance is not a topic commonly discussed for writers. Perseverance is often attributed to athletes, bodybuilders, or professional rock climbers. It took perseverance to climb The Dawn Wall, perseverance to stay in the ring, and perseverance to summit Everest.
But did you know that knowing how to write about perseverance is an integral part of the writing process? Writing, just like any sport, requires this character trait.
In fact, while it’s easy to look at our favorite athletes and deduce that their focus is on their workouts and diet, their mindset is a large contributing factor to their overall success.
It takes grit to wake up early every morning and hit the gym. It takes tenacity to stay on the best diet for your workout regimen. The same is true for writers.
In this article I discuss how to write about perseverance, why this trait matters, and tips for including it in your fictional characters or nonfiction work.
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Why Perseverance Matters
Before we dive in exactly how to write about perseverance, it's crucial to discuss why this character trait actually matters. Perseverance is a large part of many of our favorite characters. It’s part of the makeup that creates heroes.
Protagonists, and even villains, who refuse to give up induce a type of awe and sometimes empathy in readers. Often, heroes who stick with the task until the end inspire awe.
Villains who refuse to surrender sometimes evoke empathy. We do not agree with their tactics, but we can agree it takes a lot of grit to refuse to give up, even under duress.
If you want to write about perseverance, understanding the role it plays in literature will help you persevere as you write this very trait into your characters.
Write About Perseverance: 3 Angles To Take
As mentioned, perseverance can be attributed to heroes as well as villains. Some of the best villains are so memorable because they didn't give up until the last moment was taken from them. Below are three angles to take when you write about perseverance:
#1 – Showcase Your Hero
Think of all the beloved protagonists of literature, the classics and the modern. Many of our favorites embody this characteristic. If you decide to write about perseverance in regards to your hero, their perseverance can counter their vulnerability. What weakness must they persevere to overcome?
#2 – Instill Empathy For Your Villain
Yes, villains should be disliked but we can still create them in a way that shows their humanity. When you demonstrate that even your villain won’t give up and present the backstory as to why, you add a layer of humanity to their character. When we see humanity, we often develop empathy.
#3 – Spotlight Real Life
For nonfiction writers, when you write about perseverance you often enable your readers to relate with you at a much deeper level. Real life is not all highlight reels, TikTok videos, and inspirational tweets. Lopez Lomong’s memoir, Running For My Life, is a prime example of how to write about perseverance in nonfiction.
Tips For Layering Perseverance Into Your Manuscript
Perseverance, like any other major character trait, can be difficult to write about. While we don't want to copy what's been done, we can draw inspiration from writers who have come before us.
When you first choose to write about perseverance, start simple. It's important not to write cliché characters who seem to be caricatures of a specific personality or character trait. Louisa May Alcott does this well in Little Women.
All four daughters have different characteristics, but Jo particularly demonstrates perseverance as she works to write her novel. She also struggles with her tempter (see above point on vulnerability) and must use perseverance to overcome this particular character trait.
Build Chapter By Chapter
No one starts out with perfect perseverance. To continue with our example of athletes above, perseverance is like a muscle— it takes time to develop. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, be sure to build the perseverance in your characters over time.
If you write nonfiction, showcase the growth over a specific time period. For instance, if you are writing a memoir, follow the chronological order of events which will naturally enable you to write about perseverance and its natural growth.
This third tip may seem counteractive to the second, but if you want to showcase the humanity of your characters, it is essential to show them struggling to succeed. Athletes have cheat days, children have tantrums, and adults have mood swings.
Inconsistencies can help you reach the climax of your manuscript:
- Nonfiction: Consider David Sheff’s book Beautiful Boy
- Fiction: Look at Harry’s struggle with his attitude in the fifth book
There's a natural ebb and flow to every character, fiction or real, and it's important to draw attention to this reality.
Refuse To Ignore Major Issues
If showing rather than telling is a key writing rule, then major struggles and perseverance are two peas in the same pod.
Just as it's easier to notice light in the darkness, when you write about perseverance, one of the best ways to showcase this trait is by putting it up against an impossible issue.
As writers, it can sometimes feel intimidating to approach monumental struggles. Questions arise, such as:
- What if I write myself into a corner? ?
- What if I can't think of a way to help my protagonist?
- What if it feels too vulnerable to share this part of my story?
I encourage you to press on anyway. The best writing is often the most honest.
Develop Perseverance As A Writer
Covering difficult topics can be intimidating and it takes a specific character trait to do so—perseverance. When you choose to write about perseverance you are not choosing an easy task.
If you are a fiction writer, you put yourself up against the greats: How do you top what’s already been done?
Look at Frodo Baggins’ perseverance. J. R. R. Tolkien was a master in crafting him. Look at Lucy’s perseverance in believing in Aslan. C. S. Lewis’s writing is famous for a reason. Look at all the bestselling authors of today and you will likely find some level of perseverance in their characters.
If you write nonfiction, your task is no easier: How do you share your own story of overcoming without coming across as egotistical or even narcissistic? How do you write about perseverance in a way that inspires rather than condescends? Consider the following:
- David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy
- Lopez Lomong in Running For My Life
- Yeonmi Park’s story from In Order To Live
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle
Once you look through the above examples and get an idea of how to write about perseverance, it's time to develop this trait in yourself, not just in your writing. The more you push yourself to write about perseverance, the more perseverance you will develop.
When you decide to write about perseverance you start on a great journey of self-development that will only aid your writing. Best wishes as you embark on this exciting journey!