February 24, 2020

Change the World with Your Writing: Character Conflicts That Can Actually Help Your Reader (Part 2)

Continuing Series: Change the World with Your Writing

p. m. terrell  @pmterrell

To refresh our memory, Part 1 we looked talked about a gripping read must have at least one character with which the reader can identify. A book that makes an impact is one in which the conflict this character must face places the reader in a position to empathize with their situation and consider how they would handle it if they were in the character’s shoes. We looked at the top three stressors and here we will list others individuals can face in their lifetime:

        4.  A major illness or injury or a loss of capacity. The book could begin with a fit character, but an unexpected illness or accident embarks them on a journey that will change their life.

       5. A move. One of the most common backdrops involves taking a character out of their comfort zone, the place they are most familiar with, and move them to a distinctly different location. This works in any genre from Jay Anson’s Amityville Horror to Jean Grainger’s The Tour. It works against the backdrop of war or peacetime, conflict through romance.

          6. Change in employment. Starting a new job can be exhilarating but also stressful. Throw in coworkers that test your patience, sabotage your work, or place the character in a moral or ethical dilemma, and the reader can instantly identify. Throw in a stressful or challenging assignment they must handle, such as impending war or an asteroid, and you have the makings of a page-turner.

      7.  Loss of income. From the stock market crash to the loss of a farm or job, the reader can easily step into the character’s shoes and wonder how they would handle a similar situation.

       8.  Additions to the family. As the main plot or a subplot, a new marriage, or an addition to the family always changes the dynamics. This is often part of the backdrop but can take on more significance depending on the genre and plot.

       9.  Natural disasters. From romance to mysteries to literary fiction, any story gains an extra layer of suspense when set against an impending flood, forest fire, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane or cyclone.

      10   The loss of their world. Throughout history, there have been major upheavals frequently involving war or climate change that incorporate several of the stressors listed above. After World War II, for example, there was a massive migration of Europeans. In our present time, massive migrations are occurring in the war-torn Middle East as well as parts of the world most affected by climate change. This can result in the loss of loved ones, separations, loss of employment and income, and other challenging factors.

       As I said in Part 1 on the 17th of February, Adding stressors such as these can impact the reader’s perspective. Crises that are completely outside the power of the individual are particularly riveting. The loss of normalcy strikes at the heart of any reader. By causing the reader to ponder their own actions in such situations, it results in greater empathy. In turn, this increases understanding of the world in which we live, and if we can more adequately understand its people and conflicts, we can make the world a better place.


        Change the World with Your Writing:  Character Conflicts That Can Actually Help Your Reader          (Part 2) p.m. terrell (click to tweet)

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 24 books ranging from historical to suspense. She has used stressors in many of her books, including divorce (A Thin Slice of Heaven), a new job (Kickback), moving to a new place (Vicki’s Key), and others. Her most popular books, Songbirds are Free and River Passage, are creative nonfiction about her ancestors’ roles in migrating west in America while many of her suspense incorporate Ireland, her ancestral home, including Checkmate: Clans and Castles.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Trish for these great ideas. All of us have certainly experience stressors in our lives. And using these and incorporating them in our characters lives helps our readers to connect with them.

    By the way, loved your book April in the Back of Beyond.