2 Reasons Why You Must Make Your Characters Struggle

“You can’t relate to a superhero, to a superman, but you can identify with a real man who in times of crisis draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs but only after a struggle.” — Timothy Dalton


by grafter
by grafter

Recently, I read about people being intrigued with reading or writing books with characters traveling in time. Characters get to go back and right a wrong. Or prevent a future undesirable event.

So why would I say it’s important to make characters struggle if readers enjoy stories where characters can change bad outcomes?

Reason 1

If characters could go back or forward in time at will, they’d less likely learn from their mistakes and struggles. And why would they even try when they could always go back and redo what they didn’t like. Or go forward to prevent a disaster.

Characters who’ve risked nothing in the game of life do not attract readers. Click to tweet.

Even animal characters in children’s stories have struggles and lessons learned. Those three little pigs certainly did.

Image courtesy of Dr Joseph Valks at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Dr Joseph Valks at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Time travel authors know this. Characters in time travel books are usually allowed to time-travel only a limited number of times. And they still have obstacles and struggles in each time period. And sometimes what they accomplish is something different than what they set out to do.

I think the unique kind of struggles time travelers face makes these stories appealing.

Reason 2

I think many readers are attracted to books whose characters handle struggles similar to theirs. If nothing else, they take comfort that others deal with problems like their own.

We love the conflict between the hero and heroine in romances. But usually these two characters face other struggles as well.

by AuntLaya
by AuntLaya

In Marion Ueckemann’s Helsenki Sunrise, Marion shows in this delightful romance how God orchestrates the bad things that happen in our past into something beautiful. It depicts how we waste our precious time being bitter and missing out on what God has for us.

In my contemporary romance, Calculated Risk, Cisney can choose to be hassled by her father or stand up to him. As a reader, besides the romance between two opposites, I’d like to see how Cisney learns to respectfully stand up to her father. Especially in his trying to control her profession and who she marries.

As a reader, I want to grow in character from the books I read.

Readers grow when they learn how characters deal with their struggles. Click to tweet.

If Cisney in Calculated Risk is still accepting her father’s bullying by the end of the book, why would you be, or not be, satisfied?


Author Marion Ueckermann is my guest today. Enjoy Marion’s blog tour and tips to keep readers engaged. And note the drawing below for a chance to receive an eBook of Marion’s novel.

Passport to Romance Blog Tour Logo2Helsinki Sunrise, a Passport to Romance, blog tour follows on from yesterday’s stop in Central Alberta, Canada with Marcia Lee Laylock where I posted a book review with a difference.

Today I share with you the magic formula I discovered to keep up the conflict, and thereby keep the reader turning the page.

Helsinki Sunrise was the first manuscript I applied the method to, and I wish I’d known about it earlier. I’ll have to do a lot of rewriting on my previous manuscripts, but I know it will be worth it.

Applying this method from Dwight Swain, I turned critiquers’ comments from “…this is where I’d stop reading,” to “…as a reader I loved the conflict which works because often I was tired and needed to go to bed but I had to see the next sub to know what happened.”




Dwight Swain, in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer, identifies two distinct types of scenes. I think of them as major and minor—major is a scene that is made up of a Goal, Conflict, and a Disaster; and the minor scene, called a sequel, is made up of Reaction, Dilemma, and a Decision.

This method forced me to be more of a plotter, because I’m a pantser at heart. I now think about the chapter, plot it out using the Scene/Sequel method, and then write it. I create an Excel worksheet for each chapter. I use a different colored font for each POV character.

Scene Sequel Chart

SCENES are action-packed and have three parts:

  • Goal. What the POV character wants to achieve (and it must be achievable within the Scene).
  • Conflict. The middle part (bulk) of the Scene is filled with conflict. Without conflict the reader becomes bored. Make the hero/heroine struggle.
  • Disaster. A Scene must end with a disaster. Your POV character doesn’t reach his Goal. If characters do reach their goals, there’s no reason for the reader to stay up and turn the page. A disaster is the hook.

But readers cannot be on an adrenaline highs all the time, and Sequels give them time to catch their breath before the next action-packed, conflict-laden Scene.

SEQUELS also have three parts:

  • Reaction. When disaster strikes, your POV character will have a reaction to that disaster. Allow your reader to experience the emotions along with your POV character.
  • Dilemma. This reaction must lead to a dilemma that leaves the POV character with no good options.
  • Decision. Your POV character will then make the best possible decision under the circumstances, and this in turn becomes the goal for the next Scene.

You will eventually end the Scene/Sequel cycle and bring the story to an end, and before your readers know what’s happened, they’ve reached the end of the story, too.

 This Scene/Sequel method of writing has really revolutionized my writing. Click to tweet.




HelsinkiSunrise_w11668_680 (2)He needed the island to himself. So did she.

Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter’s plan. But sometimes plans go awry.

On an impromptu trip to her family’s secluded summer cottage, the last thing Eveliina Mikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.

Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.

Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.

Will he be able to resist her temptations?

Can she withstand his prayers?




Be sure to follow this blog tour tomorrow. There be a double stopover, both at locations in Australia. We’ll take a look at Finland with Narelle Atkins, and at a Finnish wedding with Inspirational Romance hosted by Rita Galieh.

There will be an eBook of Helsinki Sunrise up for grabs today. To be entered into the drawing, please leave a comment with your email address before September 19th.*

Numerous eBooks of Helsinki Sunrise will be given away on the blog tour, so take a journey to each of the stops and leave a comment. Don’t forget to include your email address.

Helsinki Sunrise is available to purchase from Pelican Book Group, Christianbook.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.

Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.

Marion Ueckermann1 - SMALLERMarion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series).

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.

Connect with Marion Ueckermann: Website / Amazon / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

Blogs: A Pebble in my Pocket / Foreign Affaire

* Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Permission to use images obtained.