Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

After the whirlwind of Christmas has passed in a blur, we stare at the bright start of the New Year and with it comes the practice of making resolutions.

Resolutions should be good. They should act as that little push to make Sally, Dick, and Jane do those healthy/productive/necessary things they should have been doing all along.

On the flip side, Dick’s good resolution may turn out to be Jane’s nightmare. What if Dick’s resolution is to spend more time with his family, so he takes a job that will allow him to do so. The catch is: they have to move to California. Jane and kids must leave their friends and community for this to happen. That is a major conflict of interest. How will the situation be resolved? Will they overcome the inciting incident and end up a stronger couple or will the added pressure of constant togetherness in a place where no one feels at home make them realize they were never truly compatible? Will Jane and the kids stay or go back? Will Dick give up his high-paying job to return with them and live a simpler life? Will their shift in circumstances change the balance of the things and people they left behind?

Sally’s desire to fulfill her resolution may complicate Jane’s life considerably. Sally has been running along in the same old groove for too long, so she decides to shake it up and move to London for a year. Jane is going through a terrible divorce and needs her sister Sally more than ever. Sally’s desertion will compound Jane’s loneliness and grief. Jane is not only losing her husband, she is losing her best friend and sister. Life is so unfair! What will the grief and loneliness cause Jane to do? Will she withdraw from the world around her? Will she become self-destructive? Or will she pack her bags and move to London too?

Jane’s resolution to follow her sister might not turn out to be a good idea after all. She follows Sally to London and feels lost in the big city. She has a hard time understanding the language. She isn’t familiar with the currency or the driving rules. And she finds out Sally has been turned into a vampire, thus her desire to join other vampires in London. Now Jane has massive conflict. She loves her sister, but she isn’t willing to become a vampire too. Will she hook up with a hunky vampire slayer? Or succumb to the dark side so she never has to be parted from her sister? Is she strong enough to put a stake through Sally’s heart? Has she found her true love in the hunky vampire slayer at the cost of her sister’s life?

Every story problem sets off a chain of actions and decisions. Your protagonist must resolve to do something to solve the story problem and right the story world balance. Every scene or chapter has an obstacle for your character to overcome. Those obstacles result in new mini-resolutions. If Dick is a sleuth, he will uncover a crime in Chapter One and resolve to catch the criminal. He will follow a lead in Chapter Two. That lead will not pan out. He will resolve to follow a new lead. He spends the next three chapters evaluating possible motives. Each motive he uncovers will move him either closer to or further away from the truth and result in new mini-resolutions. He will resolve to track down a suspect or look for new evidence.

How do your characters’ resolutions drive your story along? How do friends and foes complicate Dick’s progress with their own resolutions?

To learn more about motivating your characters, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict available in paperback or E-book and Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook, also available in paperback or E-book.



Diana Hurwitz
 is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.





8 comments :

  1. Happy new year, BRP! My issue is motivating the author of those characters!

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  2. Yes, the name of the game is conflict. Without some sort of problem raising its head, a story can be very boring!

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    1. If I read a few pages and there is no forseeable conflict, I quit reading.

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  3. What a great post - moving to London and hooking up with vampires sounds like a great way to start to year. Oh, wait. We're talking fiction here. :D

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    1. I would love to attend the Vampire Ball in Heidelberg. I think it is in February.

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  4. Great way to take resolutions to the next level. Our resolutions are one thing, but our characters' resolutions are something quite different -- or are they? Great, thought-provoking post, Diana. Super way to kick off the new year of writing.

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    1. My characters are resolving to kill me off this year if I don't start writing again. :)

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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