How many bad things do you throw at your protagonist before you begin to think that perhaps you’ve hit them so many times the readers won’t believe s/he could still get up? You want to throw roadblocks in the protag’s way. Things can’t be too easy, be your book a mystery or a romance or sci-fi/fantasy. In order to be worthy of the prize at the end of the story, though, the protagonist must have gone through the “fire” to prove their worthiness.
I thought about this as I sat at my son’s computer and pondered the roadblocks popping up in my pathway. I’ve recently had a couple of big roadblocks, such as being called up for two months of federal jury duty. Then I’ve hit a couple of smaller bumps, like totally screwing up the front end of my husband’s car (long story) and having my computer die on me for the third time in four years and being stuck without a computer, which explains why I’m on my son’s computer at the moment.
Since this is real life, my life, I think I’ve had enough road blocks thrown my way. But probably not if I were a character. We throw more at them, more than we ourselves would want to handle. If we didn’t, readers would think, oh that was too easy … or they’d think, why did I waste my time on this book, I had it figured out after five pages … or, quit whining for heaven’s sake, just tell her you love her and move on to happily ever after since there’s nothing in your way.
Our characters not only can, they must take more. True, we have to make those small and large disasters believable and eventually overcome-able, but if your character is on a quest, be it for love or truth or the capture of a killer, then they must solve the problems, save the day, give something of him/her self in order for us to cheer and feel they deserve the reward (and for us to feel that we, too, deserve the reward, since for that short time, we are the protagonist).
Are you throwing enough at your protagonist? Are you making things difficult? Have you set up this character with enough inner and outer strength to persevere and become the hero? Are you, the author and god of this story, strong enough to test your protagonist?
3 weeks ago