Is life too easy for your characters? Bring on the obstacles …

When writing fiction, particularly romance, we have been taught that readers want a heroine or hero who experience tragedy and then rise back from the depths of hell to claim (or reclaim) their true love. My words, but you get the gist.

Short and sweet, a character must overcome obstacles (and many) if your story is to have a satisfying ending, or for romance writers, the must have happily ever after.

If you’re having trouble doing that, an article, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters” from Writing World may help you get started. This is one of the best writer’s reference sites around. I keep a binder filled with a plethora of articles on the craft and business of writing that always come in handy.

Case in point.

I’m working on my second book, and for some reasons I didn’t think my heroine, a pediatric nurse and single mother, who is afraid of getting involved with another man after a mentally abusive relationship with the father of her child, didn’t have enough obstacles. So I went back to my trusty binder and reread, “Throw Obstacles at Your Characters.”

So far, the list of obstacles in my wonderful heroine’s life goes like this. While camping with the new love of her life, she falls off a ravine, sprains her ankle and gets bitten by a snake. At some point in the story, when she finally finds true love, she loses it. She chooses not to believe the hero when he tells her that her ex-lover, who has slithered back into her life, isn’t sincere and has ulterior motives for coming back. And if a separation isn’t enough, the ex-lover kidnaps her son (and his) to force her hand into marriage. Nice guy, huh?

Oh, and did I mention that professionally, my heroine comes under suspicion for aiding and abetting a criminal in an illegal prescription drug ring?

Hmmm … I think I need more obstacles.


10 thoughts on “Is life too easy for your characters? Bring on the obstacles …

  1. jdhoward says:

    Funny, I read that advice long ago and ever since, I get carried away with obstacles in my stories. I can’t stop doing things to my characters. They go through one thing after another. It doesn’t end (but I’ll have to end it :-). But even my endings have something happening to them. It makes the story exciting to write.

    • nettrobbens says:

      Hi jdhoward,

      Lol…sounds like you have a lot of fun. But like you said, the obstacles do have to end! Thanks for commenting.


  2. Zen says:

    There’s a difference between torturing your character and putting obstacles in her path. You seem to be doing the former! xD

    • nettrobbens says:

      It’s funny you should say that. One agent I pitched to thought the opposite. She said there wasn’t enough drama, which was why I had to rethink my heroine’s journey.

      Besides, I love my characters and wouldn’t torture them (not intentionally)!

      Thanks so much for commenting, Zen!


  3. Actually, most editors and agents tell you they want/need more drama. That’s what an audience craves. I think you’re moving along quite well.

    • nettrobbens says:

      Thanks Lisa,

      I appreciate your comment! Sometimes it’s good to bounce the things off of fellow writers. I’ve heard the same thing from both editors and agents. They always want more conflict and obstacles!


  4. R.A. DeFranco says:

    Great advice, Nett! Your poor heroine. I want to take her home and feed her. I hope she pulls through! Sounds like a well deserved HEA!


  5. […] other day I blogged about creating obstacles for our characters that will result in a satisfying ending, and I wanted to share this post then. However, it would […]

  6. […] a few times because it’s an invaluable source of information. As I mentioned, I keep a notebook filled with articles on the craft of […]

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