1. Steve Smith says:

    Great article! I’ve always enjoyed your insights. Another thing I learned in my own writing is to make my protagonist be active instead of just reacting passively to the antagonist.

    I liked your emphasis on actions that are believable and goal-oriented. I like books that take that even further so that the protagonist does all the right things–things that I would have done in the same situation–but fails due to other issues that are also believable. It helps me identify more closely with the character and root for them more.

  2. Red says:

    It’s astounding to me just how many prepublished—and even published!—writers do not understand the principles you’ve covered, particularly the way the main character needs to actually struggle throughout the story to accomplish their goal—which should only be achieved (or failed) at the climax. I’ve edited so many novels where the protagonist and subsequent supporting cast merrily flounce their respective ways toward a climax that isn’t proportionate and doesn’t leave the reader satisfied.
    As you said, the legitimate possibility of failure should be a major factor in almost every novel, and one of the primary reasons so many authors struggle with that concept is because they aren’t setting proper goals for their characters, which results in a lack of stakes. It’s a vicious circle, for sure, but authors so often want to cleave to the stories they want to tell that they don’t even realize how completely their stories lack that compelling must-find-out-what-happens-next tension. Readers always, always identify with the struggle.

  3. Digi says:

    I still think the idea of “tension on every page” is an unrealistic depiction of reality.

What do you think?