Posted in Fiction Writing

The Writer’s Bag of Tricks (Part Five)

Basic Plot Structure Continued: The Major Complication

The Major Complication is a scene in your plot that raises the stakes for your character. The Main or Major Complication forces the character to change course because there is no other option. The path they were on failed. The plan they were following has been opposed by another character or an event, and now the protagonist can’t continue on as they intended. If the protagonist wishes to defeat the monster they must make a new plan.

The Main Complication is sometimes called the Mid-Point and it is that “Now what?” moment in your story. The Main Complication is a new and urgent situation that must be dealt with. Note that this complication is less about the thing that happens and more about how things change for your characters from this point forward. There is more danger. Conflict is intensified. The stakes are higher.

Let’s look again at Star Wars Episode IV. The Major Complication or mid-point is where Luke and friends discover that Alderaan, the location of the rebel base they were attempting to reach, has been blown up. How are they going to help the rebels now? Oh, look, it’s a small moon. No, it’s a giant ship! They try to escape but the Millennium Falcon is captured by a tractor beam and they end up inside the one place they don’t want to be, the Death Star. Luke discovers that Leia is imprisoned and sentenced to death. They can’t just leave her! Luke still wants to help the rebels but he also wants to save Leia, and so comes up with a new plan: rescue Leia and escape the Death Star.

Your plot now has a new direction that will still lead your character, somehow, to the end result of overcoming the monster. It is just much harder for everyone, and your character has no idea how to get to the end. You might not know either if you don’t work out your plot’s structure in advance. But if you work through your plot points, you will have the map that will get your character from point A, to point B, to the end. Your character may not know how to get there, and your reader probably won’t know either. You will know, though. Exciting, isn’t it?

Let’s recap basic plot structure so far:

  • Plot Type selection
  • The Opening Scene
  • The Point of No Return
  • The Main Complication

Next time: The Climax

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