Complicated Situation

In chapter seven of  The Complete Handbook for Novel Writing Monica Wood explains the difference between putting your characters in a situation and giving them a complication. A situation is something that happens, but a complication “illuminates thwarts, or alters what the character wants.”

In the last post the “situation” was the lovers fighting and the man knocking the woman unconscious. Now I’ll practice including a complication for the same characters in another scene. The complication is that a mutual rival has the upper hand if she’s out of the picture so the man must decide whether to set her free:

 The man leans on a wall, arms folded, in a walk-in closet. He looks down in triumphant amusement on the woman as she wakes up to find herself handcuffed to a metal folding chair.

“Head hurt?”

“No. I got so bored I went to sleep. You hit like a little girl.”

“Yeah, well you went to sleep pretty fast.”

“Yeah, well you were pretty boring.”

“So what am I gonna do with you now?”

“Well, it’s not that complicated is it?”

“No; but I’m not too excited about mopping up afterwards.”

“She rolls her eyes. “That’s not what I meant, dingus. Have you even thought about your next move? If you’re their top guy it’s no wonder Arturo’s taking over.”

“So, what?” he says with a chuckle. “You’re suggesting I let you go and we start a duo? You wanna be my sidekick?”

“No; you’re gonna be my sidekick.”

He snorts loudly, but she stares unfazed.

“I’m the only one left who knows how to deactivate his force fields. Without me…well, he doesn’t even bother mopping up afterwards,” she says with a matter-of-fact shrug.

His triumph vanishes from the corners of his mouth and she flashes a large pleasant smile.

“So c’mon. Let’s go get a sandwich. I’m starving.”

So, is there a point of departure for the character? He must now decide whether to set his betrayer and rival free for their mutual good or to dispose of her and go on alone. Setting her free means he’ll have a knowledgeable ally but it also means he’ll have a second enemy close by at a time when he’ll be vulnerable.

Next time I’ll practice writing an opening that establishes setting.


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