Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Problem Is...

I have problems. Lots and lots of problems. I'm sure several of you could name a few for me. Right? Um, yeah, let's not do that, 'kay? Okay.

But think about your life. You have problems too, right? (Please just say yes, even if you're life is, like, 100% perfect.) I mean, maybe your nose is too big, or your hair is flat today or you don't have air conditioning or your kid just wrecked your car or something. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say we all have problems. Some are bigger than others, sure. Some are more public than others. Some people have more than others. But we all have them.

Problems. Lots and lots of problems.

I swear this has to do with writing, bear with me.

The other night I was chatting with one of my dearest friends. We were talking about our WiP's and she asked me what the main problem in mine was.

This was me:

...

...

...

I almost made up an excuse to leave for a minute so I could think without pressure. But I didn't. I did realize that I had no freaking clue what the main problem of the novel was. To be fair to myself, I haven't actually written the novel yet. (Yeah, see, that's what we were talking about. Our writer's blockage and I was venting that I didn't know where to go next in the WiP, and I couldn't write it because of that, yada, yada, yada, she asked what the main problem was.) So in this unwritten novel that I couldn't write, I didn't know the main problem.

And that's a huge problem.

So, here's my question for you: What's the main problem for the protag in your novel? Is it easy for you to pin down? Can you tell me in one sentence without a panic face and an almost-excuse-to-leave-this-blog on your tongue?

BTW, after some discussion, I did pin down my main problem. And I've been able to write again. I still have problems, but yeah. Who doesn't? sengihnampakgigi

35 comments:

Abby said...

When you said problem, I thought you meant like what was wrong with my WIP, which apparently today I can come up with a pretty lengthy list. Geez! Such a Negative Nelly. And so early in the morning. Maybe I should go back to bed. :)

That problem had me stuck on my first ms for weeks. I did a lot of revising during that time, but I couldn't write anything new. Totally sucks to be there.

Yea for you for getting past it! Woo hoo! :)

Suzanne said...

Mary is seventeen and doesn't know (or want to know) she is a witch. She is also addicted to heroin and a very nasty boy......

Scott said...

Jared realizes his relationship is not as perfect as he thought, is considering walking away from the relationship, and just doesn't know if he has the courage/strength to walk away.

TereLiz said...

LOL, part of the problem with the novel I'm currently querying is that the mc has too many problems, and none of them feel quite dire enough. And MY problem with the story is that I still haven't gotten deep enough into the character.

My current wip mc is facing small hurdles that grow over time, but because it boils down to being a murder mystery, that is her end goal and the ultimate problem. My problem with the work is that I want it to evolve naturally and not seem forced.

Yeah, I got problems. ;)

Jamie D. said...

Wow, Suzanne - that should easily be good for many thousands of words...

Novel WIP: Hannah is single, lonely, and just publicly insulted a TV chef she's been lusting after...now he's insisting she make it up to him - publicly.

Hannah's was a little difficult to pin down, and I think it needs "beefing up", but it works for now. I should have done more plotting with her story, but it's moving along.

Blog Serial WIP: Charlotte (Charlie) is fighting an attraction to an enigmatic man on a dangerous mission while trying to lead a group of hikers safely off a mountain in the midst of a big storm. *big breath*

I used plotting techniques for this one before I started, and it's much more clear in my head (necessary for serial writing!).

I'm glad you found your problem, and got back down to writing again!

B.J. Anderson said...

Lol, yes I have problems. Main character problems? In an act of desperation, my main character agrees to be his arch nemesis's indentured servant.

Tess said...

I was looking forward to this post today. LOVE the pic/caption. That's too funny.

Problems in my new WIP? Oh, geeze, lots. Mostly, right now, they have to do with not really knowing my new characters enough. I'm working on it.

christinefonseca said...

I have LOTS of problems...oh yeah, we are talking aout writing...

My MC has fallen in love with the very person she is supposed to vanquish.

Merc said...

Glad you figured out your "problem". :D

As for the, uh, well... ONE of my current WiPs, the main problem is:

A necromancer who plans to kill his apprentice to get out of a deal with the God of Death runs into a problem when he starts to care about the kid--but not going through with his plan means he looses his soul.

(I'm wordy, bleh. I know the main conflict but still have to figure out a good way to write it down succinctly. :P)

~Merc

Jenna said...

My novel's main problem is that my two main characters are being forced to fight for a cause they don't believe in. And, to make it worse, if they don't fight, they get executed.

Man, I am so freaking mean to my characters. :D

Great post. I actually almost froze for a moment there, but I got over it. ;)

(My word verification is Catesses. What is that, some weird species of cat-people?)

Corey Schwartz said...

Boy, makes me so glad I write PBs, not novels :)

Marybeth Poppins said...

Ok so it's two sentences but...

We often hear the phrase “Love is Blind”, but when Paige Reynolds falls in love with a man that is not only unable to see her, but also completely oblivious to her existence, this mere cliché becomes an impossible obstacle she is intent upon overcoming, leaving them both in a situation that could be fatal.

I think that's a pretty difficult problem ;)

beth said...

I try to think in terms of internal and external problems. I.e. the external problem could be the character needs to survive a deadly storm, but the internal problem is that he wants to get closer to his estranged son. Cheesy, but you see what I mean.

Eric said...

Great post. In my latest writing piece, the main problem evolved as the story progressed. To be honest, I didn't know exactly what the MC had as a main problem, but it has begun to fall into place rather nicely.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

Mine is my plot and my inability to create suspense with ease.

Rebecca Knight said...

Christine, I love the word "vanquish!"

My character Astrid's problem is that she is determined to *vanquish* the evil magic that is threatening her people, but to do so she has to get to an Empress a world away, while her enemies do anything and everything to stop her.

Great post!

Amanda J. said...

My WiP MC Tom just found out that he's an immortal alien, and in order to save the girl he loves he must remember his past and help save an entire planet from destruction.

Glad you figured out what your problem was! :)

Annie Louden said...

Yeah, I can't play this game. I have no idea what my MC's problem is. But I'm going to figure it out in the next few weeks.

Icy Roses said...

Win! My MC has a problem. She's dead, stuck in the underworld, doesn't want to be. Her baby son is still alive. She bargains with the gods for a way to return, and by a quirk of fate, she gets caught up in this competition with another person who needs to return to the land of the living. Unfortunately, this other person is Theseus, the King of Athens. And he is pretty much more accomplished and smarter than her in every way.

Problem.

PS I have a definite crush on Theseus. He's so awesome and stuck-up. I love stuck-up people (hypothetically; not in real life).

Sara Tribble said...

Now I can put it down to their problem but trust me I was there in the unknown! Those pitch contests on QT got me thinkin on both my novels! Glad to see your back with writing and figured yours out as well.

Ah yes--we all gots problems! If it makes you feel any better back home in EL Paso (here in Dallas) our townhouse bathroom flooded and the ppl below us had to call maintence to see what the deal was! We've been gone for weeks due to a car accident...can't wait till this is all over with!

Jaime Theler said...

I notice you didn't share your main problem, though. :)

Lisa and Laura said...

You want problems, we GOT problems. The one thing we do struggle with though is making our problems big enough to create the right amount of conflict, pacing, etc in our projects.

Great post!

Lady Glamis said...

Great post Elana! I've touched on this in a few of my posts. My idea was that if we don't know what we want to say in our book, it probably won't work. That falls in line with what our characters want and what is keeping them from it.

In Monarch my main character's problem is that he's been framed for murder and terrorists are trying to kill him before he can clear his name. Secondary to that is he has to make things right between him and his daughters. And he has to clear everything out of the way so he can get the girl.

ElanaJ said...

Wow! So many of you have problems! ROTFL. I'm so glad.

And yeah, Jamie, I didn't say what my MC's problem was, did I? Hmm...yeah, not gonna spill.

I love how you guys can spell it out so easily. Spies and underworlds and falling in love with the wrong guy. *sigh* No wonder I love reading and writing.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tough question that I'm still working on.
My MC, an orphan, wants to know who she is and how she fits in the world but everything keeps being taken from her. When she finally finds the answer, she may have to lose even more to embrace it.
Thanks for posting this. Every time I am forced to put it in a few words, I think I get closer.

Horserider said...

Some of my novels I can tell you the main problem. Some of them I can't. I had enough trouble isolating Andra's main problem so I could write a query for it... I still haven't figured out how to condense it into one sentence yet.

Ryan said...

Raising Kain: Diseased God
Problem: MC is the object of the diseased god, Pestilence's, obsession.

Wesley Grey
Problem: During intercourse, Wesley has accidentally turned his partner into a bloodthirsty hive vampire, and she is now wreaking havoc across the small town he lives in.

Transient Dawn
Problem: (Writer's Block) Zave battles against his heritage, and his father who has returned from the grave with an unstoppable army of the dead.

That sums it up I think.

WindyA said...

WOW! There are some amazing "problems" out there. Mine? Deadly vines have spilled onto the grounds and are taking over . . . er, sorry, that's the problem in my backyard. Writing - MC finding a way to live between two worlds that do not exactly get along.

Strange Fiction said...

I avoid telling people that I write – for exactly that reason. They always ask, “So, what is your novel about?” Well, ah…yeah. I’m forcing myself to plot and outline my second WiP, so I can answer those questions before I start to write. I think it’s going to help but it’s really hard not to just sit down and start writing!

Jerry W Stewart said...

This is a great post, and it has made me realize that I need to spend a little more time plotting. I know some of the MC's problems, but I need to identify the main problem and the primary antagonist. Thanks, for bringing this to my attention...*sigh*
Now I'm off to do some plotting, planning, and hopefully get some words in.

ElanaJ said...

Awesome problems Ryan! And Windy I snarfed out loud at the vines in your backyard! My grass is about 8 inches long. I am not exaggerating. Tricia, it's true; every time you sit down to do it, it gets closer.

Strange Fiction, this happens to me too! Not for the novel I'm querying, that one I can talk about. This one? Not so much.

Jerry, I hope you do get those words in! Good luck!

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Weronika said...

Ah, problems. I had to have a "concrete" enough problem in mind before I began my current WiP. I tried once but everything fractured.

In general, my two MCs "are struggling to define themselves artistically in radically different worlds." For Anna that means breaking the standards of post-Communist Poland in the 1970s, and for Fatemah that means defining a limit to her artistic obsession in modern Minneapolis.

Hope that answers your question. :)

Best of luck with the WiP!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Sara Tribble made a great point. I tried to write a one-liner about my wip, and that's when I realized the problem wasn't all that exciting when reduced to one sentence. So I changed that, and used it to reshape my novel. Wow, what a difference. And now I'm ready to enter a future QT one-line pitch contest. Or rather, I'll be once I've finished editing the novel. :)

Boy, I just love these posts. Can't wait for the next one.

Justus M. Bowman said...

My protagonist is out of the loop and someone wants him dead. That work?

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