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Writing Tips 11 - Start With a Good Threat


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The key to a good story begins with a great threat. Ever wonder why all good writers are both sadists and masochists? They've honed the art of making a good threat and following through. They're familiar with that pleasant sting. And I'm not just talking about those bone chilling one liners that make you have to take a second to process before you keep reading.

Every story has a threat, a problem, a conflict that is the point to address. It provides the mounted tension through the entire story and the satisfying ending at the close when it's finally dealt with; Whether or not the protagonist or the antagonist triumphs in the end.

It's the central, unifying event that holds the story together and gives it purpose. Figuring out this purpose, no matter what it is, is a crucial part of the plotting process.

Once you know the subject of your story, your threat is the next priority. Say, you want to write a story about magic. Ok, that's your subject. Now you need a conflict, which means you need a goal for your characters. Perhaps, your Mc (main character) wants to become the wizard king or wants to be powerful enough to protect something precious to them, wants to change their fate, or even just wants to discover the truth behind a certain type of magic; like a magical scientist, etc.

After you've found their goal, you can finally identify your threat.

The threat is the thing that is keeping them from accomplishing their goals. What is the thing that stands in their way? This is a little bit different from just obstacles, obstacles typically contribute and lead up to the ultimate culprit.

It doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as someone who's jealous giving into their childish feelings and playing keep away, or as complicated as an inner turmoil of their own that they have to come to terms with (which is never easy, no matter how simple the problem may seem. Pro tip: never mistake simple for easy; using this concept you can make some of the most interesting and even comedic stories. Something so simple being so difficult to accomplish)

Even the universe itself not cooperating for some known or unknown reason can be an enormously effective measure. It could be as simple as horrendously and/or infamously bad luck, a stubbornness that not even Hell could budge, or the simple matter of life and survival itself; think like zombie dystopian struggles for the most basic things like food, water, and a safe place to sleep.

Emotional turmoil is one of the most common obstacles but the most common threat is obviously, something stopping them from getting what they want. The threat can vary as widely as a person stopping them, to their own feelings, to not actually knowing if what they want is even possible. I'm talking about 'goes against the laws of physics' impossible.

It can even be something like a vast series of small obstacles that are just piling up to form one giant exhausting trial. Like the government and it's endless bureaucratic hoops to accomplish something ridiculously simple. That's what we call drama lol.

Sometimes a stream of small setbacks is actually better than any large one. Small setbacks can also be the manifestation of one large one that they're just not aware of. For example, a time traveler who is trying to save their companion but every time they try, they still die somehow and in the end they realize they haven't been travelling through time at all, they've simply been moving from one dimensional timeline to another and time travel itself is actually impossible.

Cruel twists of fate are exciting things, when they're not happening to you lol.

Bonus tip: The easiest way to accomplish one of these twists, is to track karma. A bunch of little things, seemingly innocuous at the time, can add up to one Hell of a fate altering tide.


The struggle is what gives the character and your story merit. How your character deals with the struggle is what gives the story meaning. Because at their core, throughout history stories have been told to pass down wisdom and insight. Telling the younger generation and anyone who it may apply to, how someone can navigate a certain situation that they may or may not come across. It's why we enjoy reading stories that we relate to but have not experienced ourselves. Because now that we know how this person who is similar to us, navigated a situation that we ourselves may be faced with one day. We like to read how they came out on top despite the obstacles they faced, and occasionally we even like to read how they failed because it gives us perspective and gives a little food for thought on how it could've been avoided and how they may have succeeded.

The enjoyment of stories can be as simple or as complicated as you please, and tastes will vary between people so don't worry too much about those who won't have a taste for what you've written because there are plenty who will. Those who won't simply have different life experience that makes them enjoy different things.

In short, abuse your characters properly and make them jump for what they want. If they don't have at least one moment where they would curse you out, as the author, then you're not doing it right. That can even apply to fluffy stories by giving them a horrible background  (cue them cursing you out) and then making it all better (cue them taking back everything they said about you).

So, our final formula is: Subject + goal + obstacles/threat + a little bit of bad luck and corresponding cleverness on you or your character's part - illfitting deus & diablos ex machinas + a satisfying close (tragic or otherwise) = One Hell of a good book.

Happy writing!

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