You Can’t Avoid the Big Problem

The best way to create suspense is to give a character a huge problem. Instead of solving this problem right away, the character tries to avoid dealing with the problem. Now the question is when will this problem become too big to avoid any longer and what will happen when others find out?

That’s the secret for making every character interesting. You must give every character a compelling problem combined with the character’s own avoidance of resolving that problem. In “Sing,” the main character is a theater owner who needs money to keep his theater going. When his secretary accidentally prints up flyers promising a $100,000 grand prize (when the theater owner only has $1,000), this creates a problem. How can the theater owner run a contest offering a grand prize with money he doesn’t have? Rather than deal with this problem directly, the theater owner tries to hide this fact from everyone, and this creates suspense until he’s finally discovered to be lying about the $100,000.

Another character in “Sing” is a gorilla whose dad is a criminal. This singing gorilla hides his singing ambitions from his dad until his ambition causes him to miss a getaway so his dad gets caught by the police.

Yet another character in “Sing” is shy but her family thinks she’s in the contest when she’s really just working as a stagehand. This problem doesn’t quite get resolved correctly since she never has to face her family in admitting she deceived them. Whenever a character tries to hide a secret and avoid a problem, it always must turn into the worse-case scenario for that character, which means that secret must be revealed and that character must face the consequences of his or her deception.

Another flawed character in “Sing” is a female porcupine who’s partner is her boyfriend and the lead singer for the two of them. Yet this female porcupine wants to sing on her own but her boyfriend doesn’t think she’s ready. This female porcupine never really has a problem she’s trying to avoid so her story is the weakest and least satisfying in “Sing.” When she finally does sing her own song at the end, there’s no proper build up to make her song feel emotionally “right.” As a result, the female porcupine and the shy elephant singer are two of the least developed characters in “Sing.”

Another flawed character in “Sing” is an arrogant mouse who’s actually a very good singer. Yet his arrogance never gets resolved completely. by the end of the story, he’s still a cocky, arrogant mouse.

By studying how some characters in “Sing” never resolve their problem (or don’t have much of a problem they’re trying to avoid in the first place), you can see how their story conclusion ends on a flat note and fails to elicit any emotional reaction from the audience whatsoever. Then compare the characters in “Sing” that have a problem, try to hide that problem, and finally must face that problem and resolve it, and you can see which characters feel richer and more compelling.

The koala bear (theater owner) is a fully fleshed out character because he tries to avoid his problems but then must face them and overcome them. The female porcupine is less interesting because she isn’t trying to hide and avoid a problem from the start, so the conclusion of her story ends on a flat and uninspiring note.

Watch any movie and look for characters who avoid problems and finally face and resolve their problems. They’re always more interesting than characters who don’t have problems or who never resolve their problems in the first place.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”Making-a-Scene-book”]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Story Structure

Previous article

Outlining Your Story