Author Site for C S Perry

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?


You’ve spent the first four or five pages giving the reader a good sense of who the main character (MC) is and now it’s time to put them into a bind. This can be accomplished in any number of ways, but for effect, the writershould choose something that pits him against one of his strongest traits.

Let’s say that our MC is honest to a fault. She tells the truth even when it hurts her. What is the worst that can happen? What if the MC is forced into a situation where the truth will utterly destroy someone she loves, along with that, it will destroy her relationship with that person and quite possibly cost her job and reputation all in one fell swoop. It really makes no difference how she decides to respond here, what is important are the gyrations her mind goes through, her rationalization process, her realization of the price that her honesty will demand.

For her to have to consider breaking the honesty she has dedicated her life to or lose everything important to her is a tool to reach deeply into the reader gaining their full attention. Not many of us can claim to be ‘honest to a fault.’ It might be something we would like to say, but deep down we know that to save someone’s feelings, we will often prevaricate, or downright tell an untruth. It’s human nature. But a reader looking at the virtuous Cindy will be rooting for her and can sympathize with her position.

In one of my own works, I have a thief, who leads a crew. He is thrust into the position of having to stop a theft. He has little choice. The alternative is to lose his reputation in the Thieves’ Guild, and most likely the lives of his crew and himself.

In Robert Jordon’s Eye of the World, Rand Al’Thor, a teen, focused on his friends and a girl in the village of Two Rivers. His only question in life is whether she will dance with him on Bel Tine. His life is turned upside down as he is forced to set aside everything to protect his father and transport him many miles through the woods to get him to help only to learn he is beyond the help of the village healer and is forced to accept help from an Aes Sedai, a witch from the White Tower.

 The trick is to make the situation believable; a natural flow from what has gone before flowing into the meat of the story. The timing for Eye of the World was in the beginning, it became the inciting incident to begin the series of thirteen books.

Nor does this type of situation need to be singular, as a story progresses, we can see the MC challenged time and again to look at the world through a different lens. Each time discovering more about themselves and moving the plot towards the climax. Each challenge creates tension as it ties in with the story arc, racing towards a final resolution. But we also see that the character is gaining skills to be able to ultimately stand against the odds that are stacked against them, or we learn the shortcomings that will bring their ultimate downfall.