Friday, August 3, 2012

How to Put Your Hero in Peril


When writing fiction, it’s sometimes difficult to create what feels like enough conflict for the hero to overcome. We often root for the protagonist as we’re creating them and probably subconsciously protect them from too many of the evils in the world. Like our children, we want them to grow and show their mettle, but we’re also ever vigilant and try to mitigate hardships they may encounter. Good for a parent, less good for a writer.

A devious idea struck me. I’m a big fan of The Haddon Matrix, which helps design interventions to reduce injury to people. It’s an excellent system for problem solving. Invert it and the writer now has a template on how to put the story’s protagonist in ever increasing peril.
Use negative events as inspiration to increase the factors of peril your main character has to endure. Then plot how they’ll respond to the mounting adversity. This eliminates the protective shield you may be inclined to put around your hero, and that will make for a better story to write and to read.