Sep 06 2008
Let’s say you’re writing a book about a candidate trying to join the Navy SEALs. Unless there’s something holding him there, he can always walk away if it gets too hard. That’s a lousy plot. There’s no consequence for failure! If failure is an acceptable option, we probably won’t care whether the character succeeds. You can make this story more dramatic by adding personal urgency. For example, perhaps the SEAL candidate had a brother or father that died as a SEAL and he sees it as his life’s mission to finish the job.
Here are some other suggestions to keep your characters in the story.
- There is nothing to return to. The Empire killed Luke’s family. (Careful, this is a bit cliche).
- Too much is at stake to walk away. In The Day After Tomorrow, the protagonist doesn’t have to trek from Philadelphia to Manhattan, but it’s the only way to save his son. Alternately, the characters in LOTR have no choice but to fight their genocidal enemies.
- The character physically cannot walk away. If your character is in prison, he can’t avoid the local thugs. His only choices are submission and resistance. Alternately, she may be trapped on a spaceship with a killer alien.