Posted by: nancycurteman | December 31, 2013

How Mini Complications Heighten Drama in Your Novel

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iStock_000003688168XSmallWorrySitFemale2Mini complications can heighten drama in your novel. We think of drama as compelling story events resulting from the obstacles a character encounters. What we sometimes fail to realize is how drama escalates from those frustrating little complications readers, and your characters, encounter everyday while trying to achieve goals both large and small.

Your readers can relate to these small obstacles because they have experienced them. As a result of their own past frustrations, your characters can suffer and worry along with your characters.

 Fact: Suffering, worried readers keep reading.

Here are some mini complications you can add to your novel:

• She thought he accused her so she slammed the door in his face. Now it was over.
•The shy girl flashed a big smile when the handsome boy headed towards her. He flew past her on his way to ask the cheerleader to dance. Shyness turned to humiliation.

Mistakes that send characters off in the wrong direction:
• She recognized the red coat and raced after the child wearing it. It was the wrong child. Her child was still out there somewhere.

Inaccurate, incorrect or incomplete information given to characters:
• He looked at his watch. She was 45 minutes late. Could his friend John have messed up on the time?
• The road narrowed and the night darkened. She still hadn’t found the house. She pulled to the side of the road and reread the directions. Hank must have left something out.

The word “but” added to the end of a sentence to create surprise, reversal or contrast:
• Clearly the man seemed willing to help but…getting into a car with a stranger could be dangerous.
• He could use the money he found on the street…but what if the person who lost it needed it more than he did.

A Gap between expectation and reality:
• He pressed the starter and nothing happened. Now how could he get there?
• Near panic, she flicked the light switch several times. The room remained dark.

An unexpected event:
• The closure of the road due to the auto accident was an obstacle he could not overcome.
• The train left early taking her away from him forever.

These complications heighten drama because they cause character stress that leads to more serious even life threatening problems.

More Writing Tips:

The “Ticking Clock:” A No-Fail Writing Strategy

9 Ways to Create Tension in a Mystery Novel

What is Tension in a Novel?


  1. Great tips. Our minds want closure . . . so we keep turning pages to find out what happened.

    Hope your New Year is filled with all good things! And not too many complications.


    • Complications make for good mystery stories, but can be a bit overwhelming in real life. Happy New Year NH. Looking forward to spending another year with you. 🙂


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