Your characters and their “setbacks”

“If your characters solve something without a setback you do not have a story.” In the March/April edition of Writer’s Digest, Steven James discusses this rationale as part of his suggestions for shaping and driving the story forward. He explains that the people surrounding the story, or the characters, represent the narrative forces pressing in upon the story to shape it. Furthermore, in each scene of the story, something must be altered, perhaps as a consequence of whatever or whoever presses in upon the story, or there is no scene. If the characters solve something without a conflict or setback -the story is lacking -if there is a story there at all.

As in life, people move forward as they accomplish goals, overcome obstacles, push through hard times and resolve whatever was not right in their world. If there is no struggle, nothing to fix, nothing to pursue or improve, then there is no change, no sense of accomplishment. Wouldn’t this make for a dull life? Although we do not want to invite difficulty into our lives; we do learn best through mistakes and the challenges we encounter. We become stronger in our beliefs, our philosophies, our morals, our understanding of others and the need for us to connect and work together. We become better people.

The story created by the writer for her reader is a mirror of real life, therefore; it only makes sense that our characters must suffer through a setback before moving forward just as an arrow must be pulled backward before it is propelled forward.

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