Elana talked about consequences on her blog yesterday. More accurately, the consequences the main character must face.
The question: What does the MC have to lose if they can't overcome Conflict A, B, or C?
Whoa, deep question, which prompted a quite lengthy answer on my part (after I rolled my eyes at the title of her post - sorry, Elana, it was an instinctive reaction . . . and you knew it was going to happen), which prompted this blog post. So, woo-hoo to Elana for inspiring me once again!!!
Part of my response . . .
What is the loss, and what is the importance of the loss to the character?If it's an internal struggle, will the loss create greater consequences somewhere down the road for the character . . . well after 'the end'.
If it's something external - home, job, wife, kids - well, that's easier to write about.
Can an internal struggle be maintained? Can the reader sympathize? Would a reader want to sympathize?
I normally write about internal struggles (well, conflicts) versus external. Many times, at least in my own personal experience, the struggles a person faces in life are truly internal. There is not the loss of a home, a job, a wife or a kid, but rather the loss of happiness, the loss of independence, the loss of self, and so many other things.
So, picture it - Character E is in a bad relationship, somewhat content in his misery, and not sure he wants to risk leaving the relationship, for fear he'll end up alone. Isn't a bad relationship better then no relationship?
With this instance, the struggle is totally internal, but there is still loss, because I think the character sacrifices something of himself to stay in the bad relationship, to exist in misery, rather than going out and risking loneliness.
So, picture it - Character A has a great life - good job, house, car, loving family. He suddenly discovers a horrible secret about two of the people he loves the most. His goal: protect that secret, even if it means destroying himself in the process. What does he have to lose? Well, the two people he loves the most because if the secret is revealed, the consequences to those two people will be harsh. He will do anything, anything, to protect them.
So, again, the main loss is internal, but there is a potential external loss if he can't overcome the main conflict of keeping the secret, well, secret.
So, are the consequences in your story internal or external? If internal, how do you sustain the story when there is not the loss of . . . job, home, car, wife, kids, family dog, whatever? Is writing about internal struggles harder than writing about external struggles? Lastly, did you roll your eyes when you read the title of Elana's post?? Ha!