The Importance of Dilemma

I was talking to a writing buddy the other day about the tome and how I’d gone wrong somewhere with the plot.  She offered to look at a synopsis for me to see if it really didn’t work or whether I had just lost perspective on it.  This was a good opportunity, so I went home and starting working on it.

In revisiting the book, I suddenly realised something.  I had solved the dilemma my protagonist is facing too early!  And I solved it too easily for her.  Instead of increasing my protagonist’s difficulty to a crescendo at the end of the book (remembering this is book 1 of a trilogy), I allowed her a small hissy fit halfway through.  No wonder it fell flat after that!

Just goes to show, sometimes it pays to give things a rest and get some perspective.


A problem with 1st person

I was thinking today about how many books I’ve read lately that didn’t feel satisfying due to the lack of plot development.  Often, the conflict between protagonist and antagonist in particular is flat and one dimensional.  In particular, the antagonist isn’t developed into a fully rounded character with his or her own drive, agenda and needs.   Most of the action revolves around the protagonist (usually pursuing an evolving relationship with another main character), and the antagonist is left as some vague threat in the background.  The antagonist rocks up every now and then to cause some grief, but we don’t really get a sense of what they want or why they want it.

Then I realised another interesting fact.  Most if not all of these books are in the first person.  As someone who writes in first person as well as third, I’m well aware of the drawbacks in terms of limited point of view.  I considered if this is another drawback, the lack of opportunity to fully explore motivation and character.

I came to the conclusion that it isn’t an inevitable consequence of first person, just poor craft.  I cringe in saying that, knowing how hard it is to write a book, let alone get one published!  But I’m someone who loves to read, and I can see how much more compelling a story is if the author has taken the time to get to know all of their main characters, not just the ‘good guys’.  At the very least, you have to know what they want and why.  Writing in first person is no excuse for not doing your character homework.

Now, hopefully I can remember that in my own work …