"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Structuring Your Novel: Obstacles/Conflicts

Once you've set up your characters' motivations, goals, and what is at stake, add some conflicts, obstacles, and collisions of wills. Without these ingredients your characters' adventures won't be interesting to the reader. Create stress, pressures, disagreements, and changes that hinder the hero's direction or goal. If a man sets out to make his fortune, put obstacles in his path and people who want to thwart his every move.

Be cautious, though. Don't get overzealous and have so many obstacles that your story ends up sounding like the Perils of Pauline. Keep the obstacles believable, and make sure your main characters aren't drawn along helplessly on a string of events. Have them make decisions--whether right or wrong--that will put them, for the most part, in charge of their own destinies.

As you pit man against man, or man against nature, you'll have to explore the inner makings of the secondary characters we well. They must also have good reasons for what they do. Villains can't merely be psychotic--a typical stereotype. Your character analysis probably won't be as in-depth on secondary characters, but you will must explore their past in order to tie it in with their present motivation. Remember, everyone--even the bad guy--has a reason for what he does.


COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL: From my 1992 RWR article: "The Outline: Your Blueprint for a Structurally Sound Plot."

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