Complications: Creative, Not Contrived

We’ve talked about creating obstacles for your character, and about bringing complications to those obstacles as a way to keep tension rising. But what constitutes a good complication?
Writing Tip for Today: The most important thing about these complications is that they must arise out of the main story arc. This means something can only blow up or catch fire if it’s a logical next step. Here are some more ideas for effective complications:

  • Consider Your Character’s Temperament. Is this a character who would be aggressive? While we don’t want wimpy leads, you must give the character a strong backbone that fits with the personality. For instance, I thought of this silly scene where two characters collide accidentally. Good enough. But one character with a broken nose? In real life weird things do happen, but in fiction you should consider the genre, the age group and the character’s tendencies. I pulled waaay back on this scene–I didn’t want my heroine to look like Dirty Harry.
  • Look for Motivation. Good characters are motivated characters. If the reader understands the character’s motivations for doing something and it ends up making things worse, this pulls the story forward in a logical way. If the reader doesn’t get why a character would do something, the complication loses impact.
  • Don’t Paint Your Character into a Corner. Be careful that the complication imposed on a character doesn’t force the situation into “do or die” too soon before the climax, or enforce a complication from which there’s no escape.

Complication of obstacles helps the reader transition from the first exciting moments when you threw down the gauntlet to the middle of the story. If you have a “sagging middle” chances are the complications need attention.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Complications: Creative, Not Contrived

  1. You’re welcome. I wish at times that I did all this revising by intuition and didn’t have to practice. Maybe there are some writers who can, but I’m not one of them. Keep writing! ~Linda

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