Minor Setbacks

June 5, 2010 at 5:57 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

When writing I tend to focus on the big things, the major complications and problems the characters are facing and sometimes I forget that it is the little things that can make or break a person.  Something really small can set off major turmoil for an individual.

The big things are important. Characters have goals and they go through certain challenges to reach them, and these all have an impact on our characters. But while these big, major events are going on, life keeps happening and we all know that life has a way of having the last laugh.

It might be as simple as having a friend not feeling well and so missing the usual moral support. It might be the mother who says the wrong thing at the wrong time and utterly shatters what remained of the character’s confidence. It might be that the sales assistant is not interested in assisting and it is just the last straw in bringing a character down.

Then the character reacts.  Because they are feeling pressured, instead of feeling sorry for their sick friend they might explode instead. They might fail to say something as simple as ‘hope you feel better’.  The situation escalates. The friend is now not only feeling sick but slighted and now doesn’t feel any particular need to help out. They aren’t actively hindering our character but they aren’t lifting a finger to help them.  The situation is going to deteriorate fast and now our character is in real trouble.

Minor setbacks – definitely having an impact on our characters.

What are your thoughts?

Do you find the big events interesting or do prefer to see what is going on behind the scenes?



  1. Mason Canyon said,

    Oh, the minor things behind the scenes do make a difference. Like you mentioned, sometimes it just the friend not being their for moral support. That could cause a character to react different to something. Sometimes the minor setback create a major change in a story line.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. Jemi Fraser said,

    I like both minor and major setbacks when I’m writing. It’s so much fun to toss the biggies at the characters. But it’s also fun to watch them trip up over those minor issues. I think sometimes they’re so caught up in the big stuff, that the minor stuff is easier to blow up over. 🙂

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think that’s true in real life too. I remember one of Faye Kellerman’s books where the main character was talking about loose ends and how if you left them hanging the sucker was likely to unravel (bad job of paraphrasing something I read awhile ago), but it is true. If you focus too much on the big stuff, the little things can become overwhelming.
      Thanks for the comment.

  3. AlexJ said,

    I think it takes both. The minor things really matter though, because in real life, that’s what we experience the most.
    Sometimes I look at people whose life is constantly in turmoil and think wow – my life is so stable and boring. But it’s been the little things that have shaped me and altered my path. I try to keep that in mind as I write.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I very rarely think my life is stable and boring but I guess compared to others, my life really is stable.

  4. Melissa said,

    I’m a fan of both although I do tend to lean more towards the minor setbacks. Sometimes, it’s the little things that count. The things that you really don’t see coming that can affect everything. Then, it’s all like a domino effect that can lead to a major setback that explodes on impact.

    • Tooty Nolan said,

      Oh yes, you certainly have that right. All it takes is just a brief letter from your bank manager…

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Definitely like the idea of the domino effect. Little things piling up until they make one very big mess.

  5. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    I think both are important, but the minor setbacks are the things I relate to the best. 🙂

  6. Carol J. Garvin said,

    Minor things affect a person’s responses and reveal character, but I think there has to be significant major conflict to keep a story moving ahead. I do like what Melissa says though… the domino effect of several little things that build up to something major.

  7. Tooty Nolan said,

    There’s also the argument that if the big event is serious enough, the small stuff just gets washed away in the flood. For example – who gives a damn about financial problems when you’re undergoing chemotherapy?

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