Here Is Your Crystal Ball
Here’s a scenario. Your character is trapped in a cellar while a mad killer is hacking away at the trap door with an axe. What does she do?
Does she look around in the dark for a possible weapon to fight back? Does she look for a place to hide? Or does she simply scream… and wait to die?
OK, here’s another. Your character has just found out that her boyfriend has cheated on her with her ex – again! What does she do? Turn a blind eye? Dump him? Plan a revenge? Argue with him? Kill the other woman?
How do you create conflict for your characters through the choices they make in the story?
Choose or lose
Here are some techniques you could try:
- The ‘(cracked) crystal ball’ technique: Give your character a desire or dream for the future and then show how the plot ‘cracks’ these goals.
For example, your heroine dreams of meeting a tall, dark, handsome stranger. She does get to meet him … when he kidnaps her.
- The ‘three (impossible) wishes’ technique: We all know the story of the genie who grants the hero three magic wishes. What if you list the choices your character can make – but make it each one harder than then next?
For example, a single mother loses her job and her home. She can either move in with her drug-addicted mother who lives in a trailer, go begging to her creep of an ex-boyfriend for a place to stay, or go to a shelter for women in the inner city. Which would give the richer plot or more interesting story?
- The ‘head-or-heart coin flip’ technique: What is your character’s heart, her emotions, telling her to do? Write it down. What is her head, her sensible side, telling her to do? Write it down. Now do a mental coin flip and have her follow either her head or heart – and explore the consequences of that decision.
For example, a woman has just qualified as a lawyer but really wants to go to Hollywood and be a screenwriter. If you choose a stable law degree, how is that decision going to play out? If you choose the Hollywood dream, how is that going to affect her future?
No one likes a passive character – your character is making a choice in just about every chapter or scene of your novel. Sometimes these are rational decision – but often these are irrational decisions and these can be the most fun to write about.
Think of the decisions that will lead to conflict, discovery, adventure, opportunity – and you will never be stuck for a plot idea or a story twist.
If you enjoyed this post, read:
- Give Light The Time Of Day In Your Story
- 5 Visual Techniques To Bring Your Story To Life
- 5 Secret Tricks To Make Your Writing Stronger