Plot, Plot, and more Plot! Part Five: Obstacles Strengthen Character

One of the main purposes of obstacles, as far as the writer is concerned, is to strengthen and develop characterisation as the story progresses.  This is an on-going process by which the protagonist achieves their goal, using qualities, which they may not have known they possessed. 

The obstacles must be present in order that their strength of character can show through.  The obstacles act as a catalyst by which their personal qualities are allowed to manifest themselves.

glasses city children's book

The reader watches with interest at how the protagonist deals with each of the obstacles.  Every problem should either reveal something about the central character, or should reinforce things about them that have already been demonstrated by previous obstacles encountered. 

The plot is made convincing if the protagonist always acts ‘in character’, and solves the problems by some particularly clever thinking, a logical and clear-headed approach, or straightforward strength of character.

the chocolate war

Nowhere is this process more clearly illustrated in a work of fiction, than in a book called:

‘The Chocolate War’, by Robert Cormier, first published in America, and aimed at older teenagers.  The setting is an American school where a secret society or gang of pupils called ‘The Vigils’ exert a powerful influence over the rest of the pupils, assigning them tasks, which are usually anti-authority and often dangerous.  The story is about the conflict of human nature and development of the character of the hero, Jerry.  He is assigned one such task but refuses to do it, finding qualities which he did not know he possessed in order to do so.

He is forced to make a series of difficult decisions involving his personal relationships with his peers.  The book has a most interesting twist in the climax, when Jerry’s strength of character is put to the ultimate test by the physical suffering which he has to endure.  As a piece of teenage literature this book exhibits most of the qualities necessary for a highly successful novel.

We continue with: Plot, Plot and More Plot in Part Six: Structuring the Incidents . This will help you structure your incidents into your stories seamlessly.

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