- Continue Adding Pre-conflict Pauses
- Allow Success
- Make Bigger Obstacles
- Force Greater Sacrifices
1. As the story continues, make the protagonist’s obstacles bigger than the earlier ones. Your protagonist should be growing in wisdom and in heart, so he or she should appear ready to tackle something tougher. Yet, each obstacle will seem even greater than what your character is ready for.
Such increases in difficulty as well as the conflict necessary to overcome new obstacles keep the reader enthralled. How is the hero going to manage this new blockade? Since you have allowed failure in the past, the reader truly doesn’t know if the hero will overcome.
As you make the obstacles bigger, raise the stakes as well. The consequences of failure become horrific, and the benefits of success are heightened. The battles are more intense, and the suffering worsens. The hero must fight harder every step of the way.
2. Challenge the protagonist to make greater and greater sacrifices, including those that cause emotional torture.
I mentioned increasing sacrifices in an earlier writing tip, but these increases need to accelerate even more. The best challenges create a decision between two painful choices, either of which would break the character’s heart. Look for a dilemma that reaches back into the character’s past as well as one that touches recent issues. The dilemma might even force the character to choose between a long-cherished love (not necessarily romantic) and a new one.
When you reach back into the past, be sure to foreshadow the heart-wrenching issue long before it becomes part of a dilemma. Raise the reader’s awareness of the past while it is in an inactive state. This is the point of vulnerability I mentioned in this writing tip. You need to insert that early in the story so that it is familiar to the reader and also feels like a vital part of the hero’s past.
Now you can exploit that vulnerability by stabbing the character’s soft spot. The character must choose between two high priorities, whether romantic or otherwise, and losing either of them would stab his soul.
Next week, I will begin describing how to do this in detail as well as how the dilemma fits into the overall story structure.
Categories: Writing Tips