As in life, obstacles can add tension in fiction or memoir stories. When I say this, I mean literally whatever keeps your protagonist from reaching her story goal is an obstacle.
Obstacles can be physical things like:
Wild animals blocking the path back home
An evil villain forcing your protagonist to retreat or hide [antagonist]
Any treacherous trail to negotiate in order to find freedom [landscape]
An ice storm or bitter cold or icy waters to traverse [weather]
Government or societal corruption
But obstacles can also be internal things like:
Lacking physical ability to do something
Lacking in knowledge
Mental or physical illness
Mental or physical abuse
A bad relationship your protagonist can’t break free of
Any belief contrary to a logical standpoint [if someone’s being nice to you, that means they want something]
Writers should include both internal and external obstacles for their protagonists—in varying degrees of intensity. They can’t all be life-threatening in a story or the writer will run the risk of exhausting his reader. The writer needs to choose obstacles that mean something important to his protagonist. How the protagonist interprets these obstacles is the reason why writers include them in their stories.
If we turn to my college memoir, Victoria’s main obstacle in keeping her from obtaining her college degree is internal. It’s her belief that she can actually do it. It’s her feeling of inadequacy when compared to other college students.
A few external obstacles in this college journey are:
Her children – Although they are the impetus for Victoria to begin college, the time they require in their growing up years collides with Vic’s ability to focus on college.
Failing the math portion of the entrance exam.
Professors – their teaching style and Vic’s ability to learn collide.
Dropping a course in order to save sanity
Vic’s always fighting the clock, trying to find time to complete assignments
Vic struggles with learning subject material
Feel free to offer any insight regarding my obstacles in this college journey. It would be truly appreciated.
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