Monday, March 2, 2009

Obstacle course

Many moons ago an agent friend said Mary, what you have to do with your main character is give her a goal, and then give her some obstacles to overcome before she can reach it. Logical though it is to see the concept of story that way - especially if you're talking about mass-market storytelling - this simple approach had never occurred to me. I still feel it's good advice, even if you don't take it, because it makes you think about problem solving.

Another way to handle problems is to work backward. For example, say you have a writer shivering in her icy house, wearing two pairs of socks and two sweaters and kicking herself for never before seeing the point of fingerless gloves. How did she get into that situation? Power outage? Red-tagged gas furnace? Thermostat accidentally shut down the day before? Sudden visit home after a period spent away? Faulty window seals? Unpaid bills? Or some other reason?*

The possibilities are rich for exploitation, aren't they? And the solutions are richly varied too. In fact I can think of many more attractive ones than making the house seem warm by going out into the -16 C day for a walk. But that's what I'm going to do anyway because I am so noble, or something like it.

*It's some other reason much less interesting than any of these.

1 comment:

Kathleen Taylor said...

you are totally noble...