Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sgt. Wordslayer : Resistance Training

By C.L. Phillips


So, you're back for another SWAT Boot Camp Workout with Sgt. Wordslayer? Say it with me. SWAT: Stop Withering Away Tension. Stand up and give me five jumping jacks. You didn't think writing was all about keeping your butt in the chair, did you? No, today your blood is going to boil in your veins.

Troops, today is Resistance Training Day. You will be tougher storytellers or you will eat your pencil lead. Are you ready for your first test? In your current WIP, in Act I, who is beating your hero? Who resists your hero and makes life more difficult? What? Nobody? No, no, no, that simply won't do.

Resistance is essential for every scene. Nobody wants to read about a weakling getting what they want every time they ask for it. Resistance creates action. Swings and Beats. Conversations with your mother-in-law. Doesn't matter what you call it, your hero needs opposition to grow strong.

What is your hero's number one fear? Make it happen. Maybe she's afraid to spoil her manicure doing the dishes. Or could your swashbuckling hero be afraid of spiders? Doesn't matter how bog or small, give your hero a fear they cannot overcome...yet.

So, pull out the chapter you are currently working on. Got it? Who is actively opposing your hero in this scene? Make the resistance bigger. Put an obstacle in the way. Tap into a fear. Now, how does the hero get around the obstacle? And no fair bringing in the sidekick to solve the problem. Heroes solve their own problems. Start writing. Don't stop until you have 250 new words.

Feeling pretty good about that, are you? Sgt. Wordslayer says, "Take the victory away from the hero. Quickly. Now." Burn another recipe card, get your mother-in-law back on the phone, tell the kids to clean their room. Make the world a more difficult place for your hero. Serve raw kale for dinner. And give me another 150 words.

Stand up straight. Salute your screen and repeat after me. Give. Your. Hero. Doubt. Say it one more time. Give your hero doubt. Nobody likes a know-it-all that never questions their own decisions. Nothing beats inner fear. Expose the hero's thoughts and feelings. How does your hero change their strategy or approach to overcoming the new resistance.

Give me five more jumping jacks. Got that blood boiling yet? Resistance is riction. When two objects come in contact, they grind each other down into a sweltering pile of rubble. Doesn't matter if the two objects are external or internal. It's the friction, the heat, that makes the story.

Is your blood boiling yet? If not, then the odds are your hero is still coasting. Kick the hero in the teeth. Make him tougher. Give her a reason to have a wicked tattoo. Everybody loves the champion's scars.

You there, hiding behind the coffee up. Step forward. Send in a comment with your hero's scars. Share a fear and tell us why it makes your character more believable.

Now pull out your favorite novel, and find the hero's fear. Find the resistance characters. Send us the name of the book, the hero's name, and the fear or resistance characters.

C.L. Phillips writes mystery novels while nestled under a hundred-year live oak tree in downtown Austin. Except in August. C.L writes about the the gap between what people want and what they actually do. Broccoli or chocolate chip cookies, anyone? Check out her web site: or find her onTwitter: @clphillips787


Joyce said...

This is great, Cindy. I have a terrible habit of making things too easy on my protagonist. But don't worry, I'm getting better at making her life a living hell in revisions!

Irene Haugland Sørsdahl said...

LOVED reading this. Just sent my very first manuscript off, and immediately thought I should have brought it to boot camp first. Great to have it all condenced like this. LOVE it!!!