Black Friday and Motivation

If there’s one thing that really helps a storyteller, it’s understanding and using the irrationality of human nature. You’d be amazed by the lengths people will go when they think it’s in their best interests, and very few things demonstrate it near as well as the good old American tradition of Black Friday.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our quaint little traditions (or those who had the brains to stay home today), Black Friday is the biggest shopping day in the country. For the week before the event, stores send out massive, brightly colored advertisements for sales the likes of which rarely occur and early morning deals. Possibly in response to the tryptophan consumption of the night before (makes it that much more difficult for the poor saps to get up in time, right?), these sales are often “early bird”, opening their doors long before the crack of dawn. Moreover, this practice being country-wide and the time being late autumn, many of the places in which this event occurs are beset by rain and high wind at best.

Inclement weather conditions. Early hours for drowsy people. Potentially large amounts of competition. As far as I’m concerned, you’d have to be insane to even consider it.

And yet people line up around these places hours in advance of the store opening for half a chance at the deals thus advertised, enough so that the crowd issue becomes just as major as any of the other factors. In utter defiance of common sense. All for the sake of saving a little money.

Why do they do it? The obvious reason would be the deals; they are pretty spectacular, after all. Particularly since these are rare deals, not something you see every day. But there’s also the issue of pride—people braving Black Friday just because they can. Even I’ve done Black Friday and felt proud of it; sure, it was after ten by the time I got out there (what a wimp, right?), but the crowds were still there, and it still felt like a threat.

Now consider the average protagonist, whether main character of a story or PC in a tabletop RPG. She’s a cut above those around her, generally able to withstand a lot of what life can throw at her.

Might the Black Friday principle not apply to her? Might she still be willing to go that extra mile for a chance at something she doesn’t get to try for every day, partly because it is such a fleeting chance and partly because it’s there?

Of course, it’s not necessarily going to be deals. Perhaps instead it’s a chance to learn a new skill. Or a way to make the upcoming fight against the main antagonist easier, or bypass a major obstacle, or cut a little time off of a long journey. Whatever it is, it’s worth it, but probably only just; it’s how rare the opportunity is, and the challenges associated with it, that are going to attract the characters to the situation.

So what can Black Friday do for you?

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  1. Reality in Review: November 2008 | Exchange of Realities

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