How Struggle Makes Your Writing Better

Man and Woman StrugglinggWhether you’re writing fiction or creative non-fiction (memoir or essays) your story will benefit from the use of struggle as part of the dramatic tension.

There are three basic types of struggle:

1.  Man against self.

2.  Man against others.

3.  Man against nature.

What creates tension is man’s struggle against any or all of these elements.  A writer uses some of all three, but maybe not all three at the same time, except toward the end when your protagonist (or narrator in memoir) has to fight against all the evils in order to win.

The struggle in the early chapters ought to be more about the protagonist/narrator struggling against others. The struggle against others works best during the chapters where you’re introducing the other characters and identifying them as either friend or foe.

While the protagonist struggles with others, add in the protagonist’s/narrator’s struggle against self. For example, the protagonist/narrator might be trying to fall in love again after a serious breakup.  He questions every opportunity, worrying that he’ll fail again. His constant struggle with himself leads to bad decisions, worry, even disgust, that heightens the dramatic tension of your story.

Another example might be a protagonist, such as a detective, worrying if she still has it as a professional. Her worries cause her to make bad decisions, put herself in harm’s way, and lead her to self-doubt.

Worrying and self-doubt are especially useful when writing memoir to portray the type of dramatic tension that is characteristic in a real life struggle.

Throughout the beginning and middle chapters, the protagonist/narrator should be struggling primarily against self and others.

Then, include natural forces to add danger, to threaten the protagonist, or to aid the antagonist.  Imagine what specific elements of nature will do to heighten the dramatic tension of your story.

Show the protag actually struggling with nature.  Use the weather, for example, as a ticking clock.  Write so the protag reacts to the forces of nature by worrying, fretting, taking chances, doing dumb things to beat the weather or other natural elements.

To create a stunning page turner, use variations of struggle to ratchet up the stakes in either your fiction or memoir stories. Blend the elements of struggle against self, others, and nature and you’ll have a winning resolve at the end of your short story, fiction or memoir, or full-length book.