How to Keep Your Character from Getting What They Want

//How to Keep Your Character from Getting What They Want

How to Keep Your Character from Getting What They Want

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Every good novel keeps the plot interesting by adding conflict and by finding ways to keep the character from getting what they want. Every character has motivation for something. An objective. A desire. A goal. If they reach that objective too soon, you will have a very short, very boring story.

But if your character keeps being thwarted, keeps approaching their goal only to have it slip through their fingers, then you will have a well-paced, interesting story. The best writing tortures the character, so to speak, by keeping them from what they want.

But how do you keep your characters from getting what they want?

How to Keep Your Character from Getting What They Want

How to Keep Your Character from Getting What They Want www.getwritingdone.com

In Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he presents a grid for decision making. This grid organizes tasks and events by whether they are important or not and urgent or not.

It looks something like this:

So, if you want to keep your character from getting what they want, keep them out of quadrant 2. Interrupt their attempts to get what they want with tasks from quadrant 1, things that are important, but also urgent. This could be things that have deadlines, tests in school, auditions, etc.  Or waste their time with events in quadrants 3 and 4. Quadrant 3 is a good place to interrupt you character. Does their phone start ringing suddenly? Or maybe there’s a knock on the door. Quadrant 4 is a good place for your character to spend an excessive amount of time playing video games or looking at herself in the mirror.

While some of your character’s motivations might seem like they fit in Quadrant 1, try to find an ultimate motivation or objective that fits in Quadrant 2. Your character’s motivations should be in quadrant 2, important but not urgent. Hopefully they are after something that is important to them. But if it was urgent, the story would be over before it had time to get interesting.

The events in the other quadrants might help your character get into quadrant 2. And that’s fine. You might also put your character in quadrant 2 only to have something from another quadrant take them back out. This will help keep your writing interesting as your character approaches what they want but are also kept from it.

How will you keep your character from getting what they want?

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2018-01-11T09:39:50-08:00By |Writing Resources|2 Comments

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  1. Ian Brown January 18, 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Hi Shelby,
    I love this kind of material, and how you take the time to share important methods and advice when it comes to writing a novel or a novella. They are all incredibly helpful to both aspiring and published novelists. I glance up and see that your “tagged with” says it all. Well done, Shelby! Your blog is going to be first rate.
    Bye for now, Ian

    • Shelby January 18, 2018 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ian! Glad you enjoyed the advice.

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