A nasty virus struck our family in mid-January. It wasn’t content to make us miserable for a few days, oh no. This villain had bigger plans. It stuck around and developed into more sinister problems–sinus infections, bronchitis and a double ear infection. The three of us, combined, have racked up six doctor’s visits. Five prescriptions. And our little preschooler is still sick, weeks later.
Not only has the virus kept playing its role consistently for a ridiculous number of days, it has made things worse. Sick days. Canceled activities. Confinement.
Novelists, especially in the first draft process, need to consider what obstacles they can throw between characters and their goals. Antagonists are necessary, and wonderful agents of change, but what about smaller stumbling blocks, internal and external? Any type of disturbance can add tension–especially when it refuses to go away.
I am plotting a foul spell of dysentery right now–possibly inspired by this ongoing war we’re waging in our household. The illness says something about the time, and sanitary conditions, in my historical novel, but it also traps my character somewhere he doesn’t want to be. And that’ll be the payoff.