Monday Susie blogged on 7 Twists and Turns to add to your novel!
I thought I’d piggy back on her post and add some detail to one of her fantastic tips.
Let’s look at her 7th twist: Chose the Worst Case Scenario.
Susie writes: After every scene, Ask: What is the worst thing that could happen to my character right now? Then, follow up with – can I make that happen (or something similar to it?) When you sit down to consider all your options – and then choose one that is reasonable yet unexpected, you add in the element of unpredictability in your novel. And readers love it when they say, “Oh, I did NOT see that coming!”
Maybe I’m alone in this but whenever I think of raising the stakes or putting up obstacles (road blocks) or choosing the worst case scenario, I tend to go extreme, think of things like buildings blowing up, terrorist attacks, life threatening diseases, death, mayhem, destruction! (All State anyone?)
Well, I know I’m not alone. I can tell by some of the stories I read or contest entries I judge. Random, bizarre, something-not-even-related-to-the-story happens in an effort to try to up the stakes, create obstacles, or worst case scenarios.
Here’s the deal, if you’ve worked on your character journey/story arc and you know the probable epiphany of your hero, then all of the road blocks must fit within that story line.
Just shutting the door in someone’s face can be a sufficient and effective story block. Or as Susie calls it “worst case scenario.”
I’m working on rewrites for How To Catch A Prince.
My hero and heroine have a rather interesting and involved relationship. When Prince Stephen comes to America to deliver some rather awkward news to Corina, he reaches out to her the next day, after-the-fact.
In the first pass, I had Corina invite him into her penthouse.
But on my rewrite, I had a different take. She’s going to tell him to leave. Because that’s not what he wants to have happen. And in truth, she doesn’t either, but the tension between them is pretty thick so telling him to leave is the worst case scenario.
But can I up the tension a bit more? Make the worst case scenario even worse?
They can argue. Say things they don’t mean. Say hurtful things. (Be careful with this one. Sometimes hurtful dialog just sounds mean to the reader.)
In my scene, Corina is holding two dozen roses Prince Stephen sent to her. She loves Prince of Brighton roses and the fact he sent them to her is very significant. Even a little bit “in your face.”
What if she hands the roses back to him?
Worst case scenario. Because it’s telling him, “You mean nothing to me anymore.”
And she is admitting to herself, “We are over. Forever.”
See what I mean? But you have to build those little layers into your story and they can be tedious.
In Once Upon A Prince, I built in a story road block where Prince Nathaniel cannot legally marry a foreigner. So when he begins to fall in love with Susanna, I used the overall story “block” to create a “worst case scenario.”
Nathaniel and Susanna are walking on the beach. He is aware of the attraction and feelings between them but he doesn’t want to defraud her so he blurts, “I cannot marry you.”
Now this is horrible for her because she was just dumped by her long time boyfriend two weeks prior on this very same beach!
Declared unmarriable by two men within two weeks?
I end the scene with them arguing, coming to an understanding only to find Nathaniel’s father has died.
Now, this death is not out of the blue. His father is sick the entire story. So I used this story point to create a “worst case scenario.”
Nathaniel doesn’t feel ready to be king in his father’s place! This is his personal “worst case scenario.”
Do you see the pattern?
Create obstacles against the characters’ wants and desires as part of the plot and story arc.
Then use those to create smaller “worst case scenarios” for the scenes.
I’ve been watching the comedy/drama “Drop Dead Diva” and while the worst case scenarios for the star, Jane Bingum, are episodic (here one show, gone the next) the writers keep the love and relationship aspects fluid.
So each episode, something happens to someone’s love life. (Poor Grayson!) Always the worst case scenario. Like being left at the altar. (Poor Grayson!)
But yea, they made sure the altar-leaving fit the motivation AND the tenor of the show. It wasn’t pulled out of the blue.
All right, there you go. More details for creating your worst case scenario.
With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 17 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and dog.
Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com. Pre order her next release, Princess Ever After, book two in the Royal Wedding Series.
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