Put Your Characters Up A Tree And Throw Rocks At Them. And Then More Rocks. And Then Some More…

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It can’t be easy or convenient for good storytelling.

I was watching Back To The Future last night, and there are soooo many little places where they put one more obstacle in between character and the goal.

It’s amazing.

That’s why that movie is so much fun to watch. Nothing, or almost nothing, happens without yet another obstacle – or two or three – getting in the way.

Even at the end, when Doc Brown is going have a lightning bolt run down from the clock tower on a wire and hit the DeLorean at exactly the right moment, we have hurdle after hurdle:

  • Marty is late,
  • the cord becomes unplugged,
  • then Doc Brown goes up to fix the cord – and it’s snagged on a tree and it won’t reach,
  • then he falls and has to hang onto the clock hands to make it happen.

That all takes place in ONE scene over about two minutes! That’s more obstacles in one scene than are in most books.

I mean, who thinks of that???

I would think of one or two of those things but not all four – and I may have left a few other hurdles out of my list.

That’s great storytelling.

Nothing should happen easily.

Put your characters up a tree and just pelt the living daylights out of them.

If you find little suggestions like this helpful, you can get a bunch of them. Simply enter my Word Weaver Writing Contest, and each entry gets a critique by ME!

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Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

14 thoughts on “Put Your Characters Up A Tree And Throw Rocks At Them. And Then More Rocks. And Then Some More…

  1. That was a great movie, Dan. I never thought about using it in my writing; I usually have one or two obstacles for my characters to overcome. I don’t write humor; my books are mysteries or paranormal. The more I think about this now, the more I think I will try to add more obstacles in the book I’m working on now. @v@ <3

  2. I agree, but have to say…to many interruptions between the character and their goal becomes tedious for me. I’m like, no freaking way. Just stop it and close the scene. Maybe its when the objects you throw become less realistic (all this bad shit couldn’t happen to one person), and are obviously in place to screw with the reader, that i become bored or feel played. Then I lose interest.

  3. I’m trying something new (for me), in my fantasy world; something random in location of the flow of time within the context of the world pops into my head I write it in then ‘say’ to the characters.
    ‘Ok. Now figure how to get around that and work out what it might have to do with the narrative’.
    (The re-writes should be an interesting exercise in checking the continuity).
    Fun though

      1. Bit of an experiment in progress.
        The backdrop is the world of the book, may or may not be on the verge of a major catastrophe due to misuse of a powerful element (cross between magic, Nanotechnology and maybe something akin to Dark Matter/Energy). The problem is even the most versed in the subject do not understand the full extent of the potential and everyone else is blunder about for better or for worse.
        The central characters who have more modest perspectives, staying alive, obeying orders, trying to make sense of what is happening to them personally and personal relationships (and thumping those who are threatening them)
        In writing it leads to a lot of flexibility, but the danger is losing direction and getting blown off course.
        Quite an adventure, in a modest way.

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