Complicate Your Main Character's Life

I am so psyched about my WIP!

I finished up Chapter 8 yesterday, although I went at it originally thinking that I'd have to cut and paste stuff from another chapter (Chapter 13).

Thank goodness for inspiration!

Instead, I created another scene which dovetails nicely (although a thing or two might be cut in the next revision) into the First Major Problem for the MC.

What I First Envisioned

This idea didn't occur to me in the first draft. (Hell, no.) And I knew that something was missing; there just wasn't enough justification for the MC (Rita) to hang around. I mean, if she found her birth mother right off, why would she need to?


So I need to come up with some complications, some things that get in Rita's way.

First, I decided there was no way she was going to know that this other woman positively was her birth mother; she'd have to do some sniffing around for proof.

Second, I thought about the goddess (a real wise ass, heh) who brought her back in time: She could easily have pointed out Rita's birth mother. But what kind of complication is that? Since she's a minor goddess, she'd have some limitations (there's another one, but that's for later in the story). One is that she can scent out the birth mother like a bloodhound but she can't pinpoint the woman.

Why? Because the Head God or Head Goddess made it that way. (Sounds like a cop-out, but I don't think it is.) Besides, the goddess likes the idea of human beings having to do some work; like your own mom did when she said to clean your room or finish your homework before hanging with your BFF. ;-)

Third, something has to happen to the birth mother to take her away from Rita. This is where the dovetailing I mentioned above comes in. This leads to other complications, which now forces Rita to stay and sweat it out.

And, boy, the major complication that happens afterwards is a real doozy.

What Helped Me

Besides my own whacked imagination ;-), Donald Maas', Writing the Breakout Novel, helped me immensely, especially coming up with the First Major Complication.

Just recently, while I was in the shower, I had another inspiration; this follows on from the First Major Complication, and it's going to go into the middle of the book. It's a major plot point that propels the action forward, plus it makes sense considering World War II is going on and hysteria has set in (the West Coast was a hot bed of hysteria, especially in the early days of the war).

In Summary

Want to propel your story forward? Think of things that will complicate your MC's life. It can be a physical thing - how to get across the Atlantic Ocean to her beloved when she has no money - or it can be a mental thing - she hasn't been taught to read so she can't improve her life.

Whatever it is, throw as many complications in front of your MC as you possibly can as long as they make sense within the story (or else you'll have a lot of 'splainin' to do - and a lot of readers might not want to stick around for such a 'splainin').

And if you're stuck for ideas, I can heartily recommend Writing the Breakout Novel. Although it's written more for the midlist author, I found it a great resource for my own writing - and I'm not a midlist author. :-)

Good writing!

~Nancy Beck