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In this issue... Pincushion Protagonist


Pincushion Protagonist

By Bruce L. Cook

A story might open with the hero in a lawn chair, smoking a cigar and drinking lemonade until the end, where the hero walks in the park in sunset against the sound of twittering birds. But, hey – c’mon – would anyone want to read a story like that? .... (continued below)


Pincushion Protagonist

The protagonist is the focus in fiction. We care for the protagonist and we expect him or her to overcome problems, no matter what.

All of which means, of course, that somebody or something will threaten your protagonist.

What if the opposite were true? A story might open with the hero in a lawn chair, smoking a cigar and drinking lemonade until the end, where the hero walks in the park in sunset against the sound of twittering birds. But, hey – c’mon – would anyone want to read a story like that?

No, instead, as a fiction writer, it’s your job to torture this unfortunate fellow.
Enter the little, bulging, red pincushion of fate.

Yes, the hero can start out in his lawn chair. But then, as the writer, it falls to you to arrange a confrontation, better known as a “conflict”.

In my analogy with a pincushion, you start by driving the first straight pin in. For example, you may introduce a cruel criminal who tips the lawn chair and rips the wallet away. Or, you may fill the hero’s head with remorse, producing a groan of distress. Or, worse yet, you might simply fry the lawn chair with a jagged bolt of lightning.

But that’s just step one – the pin entering the little cushion.

Now, it’s not enough to lead the hero to a neat solution with the help of friends, society, or professionals. That would be too easy. I mean, police could arrest the criminal, the road might lead to pleasure, or the lightning might just go away. No, it’s high time for pin number two.

The second pin should pull your hero away from whatever support system that really matters. Perhaps the hero is pulled away from home, or the family is forced to evacuate. Now, on his or her own, the hero is left to wander. Think “The Wayward Wind!”

Enter pin three. This time the hero is taken on the wrong path and no escape seems possible. Death or utter misery is certain. People try to become heroic rescuers, but nothing can be done. For a seemingly endless time the protagonist flounders in abject poverty and failing health.

The scene then shifts to pin four, in which yet another element in the support system reaches out to help but is unable to succeed. The situation is hopeless, and the reader starts gripping the sides of another lawn chair in anxiety.

And then, eureka, the tables turn, and all those little pins now seem insignificant. The hero has achieved every objective and a shaft of light descends from the heavens.

Have you read a suspense novel that fails to follow this sketchy formula?
When you write, does your fiction create this kind of dilemma? A good pincushion ending is better than just a routine walk in the park. And you’ll be glad you wrote it that way.

(To publish a copy of this article, please write me at the same address and I will be happy to oblige.)

Cover of book - Theories Ethnic ViolenceFundamental Theories of Ethnic Conflict, by Muli wa Kyendo (ed.)


This book develops and expands on theories that aim at explaining the root causes of ethnic and racial conflicts. The aim is to shift focus from research, policies and strategies based on tackling the effects of ethnic and racial conflicts, which have so far been ineffective as evidenced by the increase in ethnic conflicts, to more fundamental ideas, models and strategies. Contents extend across many disciplines including evolution, biology, religion, communication, mythology and even introspective perspectives.around the world.

Drawn from around the world, contributors to the book are respected and experienced award winning authors, scholars and thinkers with deep understanding of their special fields of contribution. The book was inspired by the conditions in Kenya, where ethnic violence flared up with terrifying consequences following a disputed election in 2008. Although the conflict was resolved by the intervention of the international community, Kenyans – like many other Africans - continue to live in fear of ethnic conflicts breaking out with more disastrous consequences. The book will be useful to policy makers, NGOs and others involved in promoting peace. It will also be useful in guiding research and as a text book in universities and colleges.

Handbook of Research on Examining Global Peacemaking in the Digital Age, Bruce L. Cook (ed.)


Violent behavior has become deeply integrated into modern society and it is an unavoidable aspect of human nature. Examining peacemaking strategies through a critical and academic perspective can assist in resolving violence in societies around the world.

The Handbook of Research on Examining Global Peacemaking in the Digital Age is a pivotal reference source for the latest research findings on the utilization of peacemaking in media, leadership, and religion. Featuring extensive coverage on relevant areas such as human rights, spirituality, and the Summer of Peace, this publication is an ideal resource for policymakers, universities and colleges, graduate-level students, and organizations seeking current research on the application of conflict resolution and international negotiation.


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We have developed a world peace website: www.wwpo.org

Publishing New Writers,

July 2019 (no. 1907)


Dr. Bruce L. Cook
1407 Getzelman Drive
Elgin, IL 60123

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