Week 1 - Storytelling
January 6 - Introduction
January 7 - Why we like stories
January 8 - Why we tell stories
January 9 - Your perspective
January 10 - Worlds/Characters
🔒January 11 - Responsibilities
Week 2 - Characters
January 13 - Warming up
January 14 - Internal/external
January 15 - Needs/Wants
January 16 - Obstacles
🔒 Week 4
🔒 Week 5
🔒 Week 6
🔒 Week 7
🔒 Week 8
🔒 Week 9
🔒 Week 10
🔒 Week 11
🔒 Week 12
Hour 288-222 | Obstacles
Now that we've thought about what motivates a character to act in the world, let's flip things around and think about things that can stand in their way. These can be referred to as obstacles. Obstacles can be anything. A person, a great distance or something internal, like fear. Whatever it is, an obstacle is something which stands in the way of a character and prevents them from getting what they want or need.
So, the core of storytelling is not only what's your character want and need, but then, what is standing in their way, what's the conflict? There is this expression that people say about me as a storyteller, they say I create characters, put 'em in trees, remove all the branches, tell them they must climb down, and then I throw rocks at them. Basically as storytellers we make the life of our characters a little harder.
In Finding Nemo, Marlin's obstacle would be his fear of the ocean. He tells Nemo all the time you stay in the reef, it's safe here. So in order to get back to Nemo, he has to break everything that he's comfortable with. The obstacles that were in Marlin's way from that point on were engineered to force Marlin out of his comfort zone in order to get to his son and reach a place where he could trust his son.
In ET, Elliott (the boy) meets ET (the alien), and he wants ET to stay with him on earth, but the obstacle is that ET is an alien. He can't stay on earth. He can't survive. He's dying.
I think about what's the best way to make this character realize what they need to accomplish. Here at STORYTELLERS, when we're creating these stories we go through iteration after iteration of what this journey could be for this character. Fear plays a part as an obstacle, depending on the character. A lot of times we try to skirt around our fears and not deal with them, so if you present a character with a fear that they have to confront, it's a very immediate fight or flight scenario that you've created. So it forces your character to react.
When you're developing your stories, you wanna think, "Okay, what's the fun external stuff" you know, when is the car chase, what's the villain? But more importantly, how does that car chase and how does that villain reflect the obstacle inside the character and reflect all of their flaws and their shortcomings. So those kinds of obstacles you put in front of your characters because it makes them think about their wants and needs.
One of my favorite examples is from Cars. McQueen's primary want is to get to California and win the big race, but when confronted by the obstacle of being stuck in Radiator Springs having to fix a road, what he needs is to slow down, enjoy the journey, and make friends.
In the next exercise, you'll have a chance to think about the obstacles characters can face and the choices they make in response.
Exercise 8: Obstacles
Part A: Return to your three favorite stories. Identify one obstacle the main character you selected faces in each.
Part B: Identify an obstacle that you've faced in your life. What was it preventing you from getting?
Part C: Return to the character that you are developing. Brainstorm a few possible obstacles they might face.
You can submit your ideas in the Comments section below, or write them down in your story journal.