This week Juliana Brandt touches on the difficulties of being a writer.  Turns out dealing with writer’s block, bad critiques and rejections is excellent practice for making our main characters miserable.

Yup. Miserable.

Because writer’s need to throw obstacles at their characters.

Think about it.  What if Edward didn’t mind turning Bella into a vampire?  What if Jacob had no heroic urge to rescue klutzy Bella?  What if Bella and Edward were married by page nine?


Because like William Shakespeare said:

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” 

It’s a writer’s job to create a dilemma, kind of like that little sadistic dude from the SAW movies.  Although if you prefer, it can be done without limb amputation.

Take the fun, contemporary YA read,WHAT WOULD MY CELL PHONE DO? by Micol Ostow.  Here’s main character Aggie’s trouble in a nutshell:

When Aggie Eckhart’s family moves from Miami, Florida, to Denville, Alaska, because of her father’s job, Aggie feels like a fish out of water. Not only is frozen Denville a far cry from sunny Miami, but she’s got no friends, her mother is driving her crazy, and she loses her cell phone within the first month – cutting off her lifeline to civilization.

Now, I imagine if my daughter lost her cell phone, the drama dilemma that would ensue might resemble a scene from SAW, but eventually she would emerge triumphant and stronger (especially her fingers, which would be rested without all that texting).

Because conflict makes our characters grow.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”–Walt Disney

(Kick in the teeth?  Well, that explains BAMBI.)

So in the spirit of this week’s challenge I am offering this book (chock full of obstacles) for a giveaway.  Consider yourself entered in the drawing if you comment below.

What is your favorite fictional dilemma?

**(Note to Juliana-8 pts)


24 thoughts on “Fictional Dilemmas

  1. Susanna Hill

    Gosh! I can’t possibly pick just one favorite fictional dilemma – although I must say Jodi Piccoult has a penchant for doozies! This sounds like a fun book, though. And my mother’s family had a house in Denville, NJ – who knew there was another one in Alaska?

  2. Tim L O'Brien

    You have asked a really difficult question here. For some reason when I search through the library in my head I always start out with an all-time great and favorite – To Kill a Mockingbird. The dilemma Atticus Finch faced and the manner in which he conducted himself in the face of such hatred is and will always be such a memorable stand. I have always admired those willing to stand up for their own beliefs, even when it the most unpopular thing to do. Great question Coleen!

  3. Catherine Johnson

    Having moved around a lot myself I love your story. It reminds me of that wonderful show on tele where that writer moved to somewhere like Alaska, I loved it! Why can’t I remember the name? Love your bambi line!

    I’m going to go with my latest read on this one. Sophie Kinsella’s Remember me? Protagonist has a car crash and can’t remember last three years of her life, but her situation has changed so much in those three years she is in a right pickle sorting it out and it’s hilarious!

  4. Kathi Oram Peterson

    And making your characters suffer can be so much fun! Though, there have been times when I’ve put them in a real tight spot and wondered how in the world I’m going to get them out. Thank heavens for my critique group. When I write myself in a corner, they help rescue me. Great post!

  5. Karen McFarland

    The first character that came to my head was Sandra Brown’s David Rainwater.

    I, like Tim was drawn to Atticus in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But Rainwater, that story was amazing. If you have never read it, download it now!

    Thanks Coleen for this post and thank you for all your visits and comments!

  6. Emma Burcart

    Um, of course my favorite is the classic, “Which guy should I choose?” I especially like it when the protagonists choice is made difficult by how wonderful and gorgeous the choices are. If I can’t help her decide, that’s a good dilema!

  7. Kecia Adams

    I like the kind of dilemma where a character makes assumptions about another character but finds out through the course of story events that his or her assumptions were wrong. Classic example Pride & Prejudice, current example Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins.

  8. Julie Hedlund

    Wow – favorite fictional dilemma? That is so hard. However, I do have a soft spot for romantic choices. In Outlander, the first of the Diana Gabaldon series, Claire has to choose between her husband back in the 20th century (who she loves) and the Scottish warrior she’s forced to marry in the 18th when she accidentally time travels.

  9. Jennifer Groepl (@JenGroepl)

    Wow, that’s a toughie. A recent one I like was when Tris in Divergent had to choose between staying with her family or following her own desires when choosing her faction.

  10. August McLaughlin

    How much time do you have? 😉 Lots I could list, but at the moment, I’m enjoying Daniel Palmer’s DELIRIOUS. The main character develops psychotic symptoms and questions whether they’re actually happening or part of scheme against him. Good stuff!
    August McLaughlin recently posted..Show to TellMy Profile

  11. Patricia

    Nice post Colleen. My fictional dilemma – should I kill someone – or not? I just killed off my first character in my current WIP. Was it the right thing to do? Still debating that. I’m not a killer and I don’t have a killer instinct.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  12. Janelle Madigan

    Coleen, well, Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is my favorite book. Her characters’ dilemma is so everyday–falling into and out of love–and timeless. Today we may have text-messaging, email, Starbucks, and movie theaters, but not much has changed in the complex ways of the human heart.

  13. Juliana

    Wow, I love your summary and quotes here! Way to take this prompt to the next level :)

    I’d have to go with Harry Potter walking into the forest in book 7. Can you imagine??

  14. Molly Pendlebury

    Fun post :) I’m so thankful to finally understand why Bambi began the way it did. It still haunts me! Why I felt it was a right of passage for my children to watch…..I don’t know why. It certainly didn’t have the effect on them that it did me! Thank Goodness! 😉

    I’m a Harry Potter addict and could list a number from the series. All the conflicts in the Hunger Games trilogy are high on my list as well. Philipa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” literally had me screaming at the book and at times very near actually throwing the book out the window but, refrained because, I knew I’d hurt myself running out the door to retrieve the amazing read again.

  15. Melissa Kline

    Hi Coleen! What a great post! I like dilemma’s that have to do with lost loves, mystery and lots of obstacles.

    Twists and turns, and unexpected surprises are also up there.

    Thanks for the great question!


  16. Jessica Therrien

    I’m going to have to go with The Host…I was really wondering how Stephenie Meyer was going to writer characters out of that dilemma. Of course, she did. I don’t want to go into detail if anyone hasn’t read it though…

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