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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Desperate Situations: WL 366 (#16)

Lesson 16: Put your characters in desperate situations right away.

If you read my last lesson "In Medias Res" you might be wondering how to jump into your story right in the middle of the action. It's simple: put your characters in desperate situations right away.

You can work in description as the situation unfolds, but readers stick with active scenes where characters struggle for something. Giving your reader a desperate situation to follow right away is an instant character-reader bonding technique.

Knowing that Suzie wears her blond hair in braids and blue is her favorite color hair bow isn't going to make your reader feel anything or want a deeper connection to Suzie. Giving Suzie a plight your reader can empathize with--that's the voodoo mind-capturing stuff great writers are known for.

Once you've captured us, then feel free to tell us Suzie likes blue hair bows (if you must, and if and only if it adds to your story in some way--that's a whole other post I'll share later).

Bova ( rough character drawing)
In my current fantasy novel, the first paragraph begins with Bova, a berry picker, frozen in place as a poisonous serpent curls up his leg. Bova's situation becomes more desperate as the chapter continues, and through it all description is peppered in--Bova's winged ears clapping against the side of his leathery head, for example, as he shivers. This description clearly a reaction to his situation, which makes it a logical and visual part of the story rather than an unnecessary detail.

And unnecessary details can bore your reader and take their focus off your character's desperate situation. 

Tell us about one of your stories where your character is thrown into a desperate situation on page one.

Visit me tomorrow for another Writer's Leap 366 lesson.


  1. Angela Cothran said...

    I love details, so I have to be really careful that mine work for me and not against me :)

  2. Peggy Eddleman said...

    I love having them start off in a crazy situation! My latest finished starts off with a dive off a cliff.

  3. MISH said...

    A very interesting & informative series of Writing Lessons you have here. Thanks for sharing.

  4. warrenjc said...

    Not only put them in a dangerous situation but make it compelling as well. Just as you have done with the snake. I hate snakes, so that would be a hairy read for me. Good job.