Obstacles Add Tension in Story #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

As in life, obstacles can add tension in fiction or memoir stories. When I say this, I mean literally whatever keeps your protagonist from reaching her story goal is an obstacle. 

Obstacles can be physical things like:
Wild animals blocking the path back home
An evil villain forcing your protagonist to retreat or hide [antagonist]
Any treacherous trail to negotiate in order to find freedom [landscape]
An ice storm or bitter cold or icy waters to traverse [weather]
Government or societal corruption
But obstacles can also be internal things like:
Lacking physical ability to do something
Lacking in knowledge
Mental or physical illness
Mental or physical abuse
A bad relationship your protagonist can’t break free of
Any belief contrary to a logical standpoint [if someone’s being nice to you, that means they want something]
Writers should include both internal and external obstacles for their protagonists—in varying degrees of intensity. They can’t all be life-threatening in a story or the writer will run the risk of exhausting his reader. The writer needs to choose obstacles that mean something important to his protagonist. How the protagonist interprets these obstacles is the reason why writers include them in their stories.
If we turn to my college memoir, Victoria’s main obstacle in keeping her from obtaining her college degree is internal. It’s her belief that she can actually do it. It’s her feeling of inadequacy when compared to other college students.
A few external obstacles in this college journey are:
            Her children – Although they are the impetus for Victoria to begin college, the time they require in their growing up years collides with Vic’s ability to focus on college.
            Failing the math portion of the entrance exam.
            Professors – their teaching style and Vic’s ability to learn collide.
            Dropping a course in order to save sanity
            Vic’s always fighting the clock, trying to find time to complete assignments
            Vic struggles with learning subject material
Feel free to offer any insight regarding my obstacles in this college journey. It would be truly appreciated.
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32 thoughts on “Obstacles Add Tension in Story #AuthorToolboxBlogHop”

  1. Hi Victoria Marie – if you can do it … we all can! I admire your tenacity – and yes obstacles crop up all the time … keeping sane, can keep us above the fray and not drag us down too far.

    Having a positive outlook would be key … no point in being negative – which doesn't get anyone anywhere … though inevitably we all experience it, til we get out of it.

    You can do it – and all obstacles can be overcome somehow – even if like my recent post – I admit failure … it's a positive in its outcome … but because we're bloggers we can mix and match.

    Well done – you get there … cheers Hilary

  2. I love Alex’s comment! That being said, as you point out, the obstacles can be internal and external. What a timely post, as I just read a blog about how a logline should be created. It basically has the protagonist, her goal, and the obstacles keeping her from reaching that goal. Which is also how a book should be put together. Weirdly enough, I never saw my memoir from that light. Yet, it is built around internal (not being able to choose, always wanting everything in life, being immature) and external (the weather, immigration issues,…) obstacles to reach my goal of freedom, love, and adventure.

    It looks to me that you have a whole list of obstacles to reach your college degree and you have integrated them well in the story. So, well done!

  3. Great list of obstacles, thanks for sharing 🙂
    I'm trying to sort out my plot at the moment, so this is really helpful!
    I find I learn better if I take lots of notes, and if I'm struggling I rewrite them until they make sense.

  4. Great point about the level of the obstacles. A lot of us can be derailed by things that may seem small to some. Love the lists!

  5. I always find the internal conflicts the most interesting. The external conflicts are easy to solve (especially if the author and audience don't mind an unbelievable coincidence or two). It's a lot harder to have a believable instant personality change – that has to be a journey, and the journey is what I find so interesting.

  6. Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Hilary. I truly appreciate your positivity here at Adventures in Writing. As you say, positivity is what keeps people trying to accomplish a goal. Yes, obstacles are a part of life. And everyone fails once in a while. The key is to become better because of it. I'll jump over to your blog to read your post.

    Thanks again for your positivity here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your weekend!

  7. Liesbet, I'd be lost without your logic here at Adventures in Writing. Thank you so much for sharing your insight. You are correct; your memoir has internal and external tension, too. And boy! Do you have adventures.

    Thanks again for your kind words regarding my memoir. They are truly appreciated. Enjoy your weekend!

  8. Trust in romance sounds key to the plot of a couple coming together at the end. Fantasy demands external obstacles, Susan, but we need to remember that all characters are overcoming some internal force that plagues or bothers them throughout the story.

    Thanks so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. It's appreciated more than you realize. All the best to you.

  9. The internal conflicts are the most interesting, Iola. You are correct. Readers always want to know what's troubling the protagonist on the inside. And yes, to solve this internal problem, there needs to be a journey of change. The reader wants to see the protagonist change–on the inside.

    Thanks so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. It's appreciated more than you realize. All the best to you.

  10. Many times our protagonists are their own worst enemies. I know I am in my college memoir. You have a great obstacle for your character's internal problem. State welfare is a wide problem, so make your character's problem with it personal.

    Thanks so much for your note here at Adventures in Writing. All the best to you!

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