The Writer’s Bag of Tricks (Part Seven)
Basic Plot Structure Continued: All the Other Complications
The purpose of complications as a part of plot structure in fiction is to make life harder for your characters. It is as simple as that. Complications add surprises, twists, problems, impossible situations, tension, and conflicts. The story complications make your story more dynamic and your characters more lifelike. Ultimately, all stories are about solving problems. Force your characters to overcome even greater odds. Make it hard for them to get to the end. Add tension. Add conflict. Complicate their lives. Nothing should be easy.
But how do you complicate your plot? Chuck Wendig describes complication well in three C’s of storytelling. Whatever it is your character is after, they can’t have it. Where ever your character is going, they can’t get there. If they are running away, they fall into a pit. If they are sleeping, the monster bursts through the door. You character will get what they are after only later in the story. Some complications will be resolved more quickly, and some won’t be resolved until the last possible moment. Your complications should be unpredictable but still fit within your overall plot, plot type, and theme.
All of your complications should be resolved by the time you get to the end of your story. You’ve heard the phrase “loose ends?” That means you left some complication unresolved. If you plot out your novel you will know every complication and you will be able to resolve each of them by the time you type “the end.”
Let’s look at Other Complications for Star Wars. Luke and the crew find themselves on the Death Star. Luke discovers Leia is scheduled for termination in the detention block. He tempts a reluctant Hans Solo with reward money, and together they break into the detention control room. They rescue Leia from her cell only to be overwhelmed by Storm Troopers. Their escape is cut off. Leia blasts a whole in a ventilation shaft, but they end up in a garbage compactor. See how things go from bad to worse for the characters? It is these kinds of complications that makes Star Wars a dynamic and endearing story.
There should be several Other Complications throughout your story. Get your characters into trouble. Get them into more trouble. Then be the hero by writing their escape!
Plot Structure Recap:
Plot Type selection
The Opening Scene
The Point of No Return
The Main Complication
Next time: Reader’s Choice: email me with topic suggestions at: oosuzieq @ gmail dot com.