Sometimes it pays to take language back to its roots. Metaphors are powerful in all sorts of ways, but sometimes we use them without noticing the remarkable, grounded truth they contain.I was reminded of this fact while weeding my vegetable plot and trying to rid of an infestation of creeping thistle.
No matter how deep you dig, it seems you always need to go just a little bit further. Leave even a fragment of the root behind, and it will be back. Persistence is essential. It might take years to eradicate the problem or even get it under control.
These lessons are true for fiction, too. A character can’t transform themselves overnight. Even huge events in their life won’t be enough to root out deep seated issues. All too often in stories, we accept major character change as happening almost instantly. Or too easily. A flash of insight, a bit of self-recognition and BOOM – the person is changed. A new day dawns. Head towards the resolution with flags flying.
Real life isn’t like that. Real people have to keep working at their issues day after day, year after year. Just as you think you’re making progress, the thistles reappear and you realise you have even more digging to do. Even more work is needed. It might never be over. You always have to keep an eye out for thistles, even if you got all the roots, the wind might still bring seeds.