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Posts Tagged ‘forks’

The middle of your story is a chain of actions and reactions. The hero tries to accomplish some goal, but there keep being obstacles in the way. Every obstacle he overcomes must lead him to a new one, and usually, it’s a worse one. The hero keeps being frustrated at every turn, but he can’t back out. He wants to find solutions, but you’ve set it up so there’s no easy answers. He’s forced to press on, chaining together attempts to reach his goal while things just get worse and worse.
 
One way to set up this chain of actions and reactions is by forcing bad choices. The hero is presented with two or more options, but each one is going to make things worse for him. There’s a fork in the road, but no matter what he chooses, he’s just going to get deeper into trouble.
 
Be sure to emphasize for the reader what the dire consequences would be for each option. Tell the reader the stakes.
 
Example 1: A lawyer is trying to win a case for his client, a suspected murderer. There’s piles of evidence connecting his client to the murder, and no way she’s going free. He can either have his client plead guilty, in which case she’ll rot in jail and maybe even be executed; or not guilty by reason of insanity, in which case she’ll be torn from her family, disgraced, and locked away with lunatics.
 
Example 2: A kid lies to her mom and goes somewhere she’s not supposed to go — to an abandoned house. While she’s there, she learns a dangerous secret that involves her family. She can tell her mom about it, in which case she’ll get in trouble for lying and for disobeying her mother. Or she can keep it a secret, in which case there might be great danger for her family.
 
In chess, a powerful tactic is known as the “fork.” Essentially it’s forcing your opponent into a bad choice. You move your bishop in such a way that it’s either going to take your opponent’s knight or your opponent’s rook. The choice is up to your opponent, but either way, he’s going to be closer to losing. It’s a good strategy for winning at chess, and a great strategy for making things worse for your protag and more thrilling for your reader.
 
What bad choices can you force your hero into?

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