Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Trapped Protagonist

Over at the Romance Divas forum for the next three months, I'm serving as mentor to another writer. As a result, I've been thinking about plotting and how to plot and how to teach to plot. And how to teach one to teach one's self how to plot. *whew*

To help out my thinking, I've been browsing among various articles, books, saved messages, etc. that I saved thinking I would get to them later, when I needed them. I'm not reading any of it closely, just skimming, and letting ideas come together in my head, loosely and probably confusingly connected. Yes, it's my usual "let the backbrain do it!" methodology.

I remember being taught in school about the external conflict and the internal conflict. But how about in relation to plot? There are plots where the characters go somewhere physically, and plots where they don't travel far at all. This physical placement of the characters can be related to what type of conflict they're experiencing.

Right now, I'm more intrigued by the trapped protagonist, perhaps because I haven't explored it much in my own writing, yet.

If the protagonist is trapped somewhere - in a house, in a town, in a network of tunnels, in a relationship - the tension of the story is automatically ramped up. The character is trapped and wants to escape. The barriers she has to overcome are right in her face, perhaps even familiar to her (her home town taken over by the Children of the Corn! her own husband turning into a vampire!). It's claustrophobic. Her emotions can be compressed like the space, and then explode with concomitant force.

Plus, there's making old things new again. If the character is in a familiar setting, perhaps the town where she grew up, people and things surrounding her haven't necessarily changed. But she is changing in the course of the book, so her perceptions of familiar things will change. That's movement. That's part of the plot arc.

Suddenly, I'm seeing another level to the appeal of the Gothic novel.


  1. Apart from the tension inherent in the trap is the internal conflict when the MCs are trapped together. With nothing to distract them. What a perfect opportunity to focus solely on the relationship! I'm always amazed at authors who can pull off a story where the majority of it is just two people being together -- and not just having sex.

  2. I've heard those called the "cabin romance." As in, trapped in a cabin somewhere in the wild. Blizzard is a bonus.