So my ex-husband and his wife spent the night at our house last night….
You could use that half-sentence as a writing prompt. Those characters all lined up in row – the narrator, her ex-husband, the ex-husband’s new wife and whomever the character(s) are that lead the narrator to use the word “our,” create conflict and tension just by being in proximity to each other.
Conflict – interior and exterior – is a critical component of fiction. Without conflict you have characters limping around on the page boring themselves and the reader into a coma.
It is tempting to make your main character the good guy and create a bad guy who is the source of much of the conflict that your character must overcome in your story. I’ve critiqued a lot of manuscripts that are structured that way. It’s a good start, because it lets you get the characters in the page and basic plot elements.
But you can do better.
Characters who only have “good” qualities and habits are boring. So are antagonists who are purely evil. These are what editors call “flat” characters because they are one-dimensional.
Make sure that your characters are like real people, that they have positive and negative qualities and quirks. Give the good characters flaws, bad habits and a few awful secrets. Allow your bad characters to have redeeming qualities and wonderful secrets. It will ramp up the tension and give you more opportunities for plot twists.
By the way…
My ex-husband and his wife did spend the night at our house last night. They were up here to drop off her son at a college that is about an hour away from our house. We had a great dinner and enjoyed celebrating the fact that the village of parents that the four of us created about a decade ago has launched the final kid from the nest and into his adult life.
Here are the four of us at our daughter’s wedding in May.
Isn’t that a nice change from divorced people who are always angry and spiteful? A real-life plot twist!
“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”
Today’s prompt: Come up with a sentence that puts two characters who might understandably be at odds with each other in a setting or situation that is going to make sparks fly. If you have the right degree of tension, the next fifteen minutes of writing are going to fly out of your fingertips.
Scribble… scribble… scribble…