But I'm back at work on a novel for Camp Nano so here's a new post inspired by some of the knotty points I've run into so far in my book.
But what happens when characters try to fix those problems?
Except that it's also kind of boring.
There's nothing wrong with the bad guys throwing obstacles in the protagonist's way, but if that's the only place his problems are coming from, the story starts getting boring and predictable. Plus I am missing out on one of the best plot devices ever: the character creating problems for himself.
Here's how it works: the character's attempts to solve his problems actually create more problems for him to face (or make the original problem worse).
For instance, in Pixar's Toy Story Woody tries to solve his problem (Andy having a new favourite toy) by knocking Buzz behind a desk and out of the picture for a little while. But when he accidentally knocks Buzz out the window instead, he's suddenly faced with a whole new set of problems.
Another example is in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation when Ethan Hunt goes to an opera to prevent an assassination. In a stunning plot twist *spoilers ahead* he is forced to shoot the prime minister himself, throwing him and his team into the biggest mess they've been in yet.
In the first example it's the character's fault. In the second it isn't. But in both the problem is made much worse as a direct result of the character's actions.
What makes it such a great device is that the readers are much less likely to see it coming; after all, they're expecting the character's actions to fix the problem, not make it worse.
And of course, it adds to all that great internal conflict that the character has to deal with when at least part of his problem is his own fault.
So try it out in your own story. I'm off to try it out in mine.