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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Obstacles: What's the Big Deal?

Picture Credit: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/
We've talked before about the story problem (view the discussion here).

This time I'm going into more information about the obstacles characters will face. EVERY character should have his or her own agenda--remember, each character thinks he or she is the main character.

For each character, answer the following three questions:

  1. What does the character want?
  2. Why does the character want it?
  3. What is getting in the way?

Now, these questions will be answered differently depending on the precise situations the characters encounter, but within the story characters should have overlying goals (whether or not they know what their goals are).

Take time to really think over your answers to these questions. What do they REALLY want? What do they THINK they want? Peel back the layers on their goals--what is driving them at the core?

The plot and subplots will feel forced if people are trying to get things without much of a reason or if they like or hate each other without a reason. Even the villains don't see themselves as "bad guys". They consider themselves justified in what they are doing. If we could have an interview with Adolf Hitler--one of the most evil people in history--what would he say? Would he tell us that he went through life trying to be a "bad guy"? No. He'd give us justifications for everything he did and try to explain that he was really a "good guy".

Another thing to consider is it isn't just the "bad guy" who gets in the hero's way. Think about your own life. Do you agree 100% of the time with the people around you who you care about? Absolutely not. Contention and clashing of wants from multiple "good guys" can sometimes be more effective than "good guy" vs. "bad guy" because all contending groups have worthy goals.

When looking at what gets in the characters' way, there are internal and external obstacles.

Internal Obstacles

  • Prejudices
  • Misconceptions
  • Misunderstandings
  • Flaws and Weaknesses
  • Conflicting Desires
External Obstacles

  • Physical Objects in the Way (think of a rock they must climb over)
  • Circumstances
  • Interference From Others' Wants
  • Society Expectations and Rules

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