Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You Think YOU'VE Got Problems?


Have you ever had one of those days? The alarm didn't go off and you wake up five minutes before you have to leave the house so you jump in the shower, brush your teeth and head out the door only to discover you forgot your breakfast but no worries because there is a coffee cart in the lobby that sells coffee AND pastries. You arrive at work late anyways thanks to horrendous traffic and discover the coffee cart guy is home sick. No coffee, no breakfast. You sit at your desk obsessing over lunch but then you remember you have a meeting that is going to run right through it - so no lunch yet. You try to ignore your rumbling stomach during the meeting, watching the clock and counting down the minutes until it is over and you can dash to the cafe next door for a takeout sandwich. Not having the energy to take the stairs, you opt for the elevator. The doors close, the elevator starts down and...STOPS. You're stuck. And there is no phone. You push the ringer for an hour before someone realizes what that annoying noise is. When you get to the cafe, you discover they've gone out of business after 15 years...

"A protagonist should not gain anything easily." - Les Edgerton, "Hooked"

Your protagonist should have days like this. Weeks even. As a writer, I have so much fun getting in my main character's way. Just when she thinks she is home free, I throw up a road block. I take the wind out of her sails, then make it clear skies with no wind in sight for weeks. She's forced to paddle, which works until she can see the shore, then I break that oar. You might think she could just jump out and swim, but she never had lessons. Or maybe she had lessons, but when she jumps in, the current takes her far down stream from where she needs to be. You get the idea. For me, the best part of writing is giving my protagonist "Oh, I don't believe THIS is happening" moments. I enjoy doing the same for my antagonist! Throw her a rope to help her climb out of that hole, then have it rub against the sharp rocks until it breaks, plunging her farther down.

If you haven't read "Hooked," I highly recommend it. Les Edgerton covers everything you need to know to write a beginning that will hook your readers (and agents and editors!). I just finished it and will be employing what I read in my next round of rewrites. I'm very excited about it! And anything that can get us excited about our rewrites has to be a good thing, right?

How do you get in your main character's way?


  1. This was such a fun read!!! I was so curious as to where you were headed with this and I enjoyed where you left us!!! Our MC's should experience trouble, and a lot of it, it's what makes them stronger.

    I find that my MC actually gives me the ideas without even realizing it. She would like to just pass on by, but hey I experienced crazed butterflies when looking at a boy I liked (who liked someone else) so she should feel the same way. When the queen bee stares her down and demands to keep my MC's paws off her man, we've felt someone get in our way and it's our MC's time.

    This was fantastic! Left me smiling!!

  2. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation. I finally read On Writing by Stephen King and love it. I now know why it's on the highly recommended list for writers. I already learned via the blogosphere a lot of what he had to offer about writing, but his story is inspirational.

  3. Just wanted to thank you for the shout-out you gave for my book "Hooked." I'm delighted you found it helpful for your own writing. You said it perfectly. I see this in students all the time--we spend our lives doing our best to avoid trouble, and this sometimes permeates our writing to where we don't give enough trouble to our characters.

    I'm including your blog on my blog. And, I'd like to invite you to visit mine, at www.lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/

    Again, thank you!

    Blue skies,

  4. Whoa, Jennie, you got a comment from the author himself?! I loved "Hooked". I must have rewritten my intro dozens of times as I read more of his book and it gave me another idea. ;)

    Loved this blog post!