Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Watch Out!

36 Comments

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Simon Howden

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Simon Howden

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.  ~ Henry Ford

It happened in slow motion. I’m on the interstate going 65 mph, traffic was heavy. All of a sudden, a wheelbarrow fell off the back of a pickup truck in front of my car.

I was in the far left lane. Swerving to my right lane wasn’t an option, it was full of cars. The left shoulder was narrow and led to a steep drop off. I gripped the wheel and had a split second to weigh my options. If I maintained my course, the wheelbarrow would burst through my windshield. If I went to the right, I could cause a multi-car pileup. There was a car tailgating me, so I couldn’t hit my brakes. This was the biggest obstacle I’ve ever encountered on the highway.

In order to grab my reader’s attention and keep it, I need to throw some wheelbarrows in my character’s direction. I can’t have him reach his goals without a hitch; he’s going to have to work for it. This work will add conflict and tension to my plot and keep my reader’s turning the page. Real life is full of conflict; my character’s life shouldn’t be any different.

The first wheelbarrow he will encounter will be at the start of the story, a critical situation that changes his life. It will relate directly to the character’s goals causing major shifts in his life. It will force him to experience the story’s events.

I want to avoid stringing together bombs and car chases placed incorrectly in the narrative structure. Of course, those things are exciting and bring hardships to my characters, but they are only tiny wheelbarrows in the scope of the story. Unless they are part of the huge wheelbarrow racing toward him at 65 mph, then the scenes won’t be enough to keep my reader engaged.

By making sure my obstacles are logically and intricately connected to everything else that’s happening in the story, my characters struggle, without being predictable. I want my readers to be surprised and wonder how my character overcame the wheelbarrow.

I still think about that day on the interstate. I’m unable to explain how I guided my car around the wheelbarrow. If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post. God took over the wheel that day and for that, I’m grateful.

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, published by Harlequin Love Inspired released on February 21, 2017 and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

36 thoughts on “Watch Out!

  1. How scary is that. It’s moments like those that give you nightmares afterwards but at the time, something called adrenalin kicks in and saves us. Great way of describing character set up within a story, though!

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  2. Good lead into your post, and certainly the way to grab a reader’s attention! You’re right; someone up there was looking out for you that day.

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  3. Amazing story! And I love the analogy! 🙂

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  4. Well said, Jill, and thank goodness you’re still here to tell the tale! I’m editing a thriller right now that has my heart racing whenever the killers are around–I have to edit those scenes twice because I’m reading too fast! The good guys in this story are climbing a Mt. Everest of obstacles, and as you say, that’s what keeps the pages turning in a well-constructed story.

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    • Thanks, Candace! I thank God every day that things turned out the way they did. It could have been bad. The story you’re editing sounds exciting. I’d love to attempt a suspense story, but I’m not sure if I’m that crafty. Have a great weekend, Candace!

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  5. Jill, you certainly grabbed my attention when I started reading!
    “Real life is full of conflict; my character’s life shouldn’t be any different”. I like this:-)
    I am glad you navigated your way on the interstate out of the path of wheelbarrow.
    You rightly said, “God took over the wheel”. Have an enjoyable weekend.

    Oh, that wheelbarrow has no clue how much cyber attention it’s going to get today and in the days to come:-)

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    • Thanks, Elaine! Believe me, that wheelbarrow coming at me, grabbed my attention. Thankfully, I don’t text while driving or I would have never seen it coming. By the way, I loved your sunset photos…beautiful! Have a great weekend!

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  6. Wow, I’m glad you were guided in the right direction during a scary moment like that. It also gave you a fantastic way to illustrate putting the ‘best’ obstacles in our characters way.

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  7. WOW! Scary! A few years ago, Julie and I were on the freeway to the airport when a soft drink truck in front of us lost its ‘dolly’ off the the rear end — we hit the dolly but made our flight… Our car was fixed by the company after we returned from our trip… It was a scary moment! My best to you…

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    • Oh Billy, despite the dangerous situation you and Julie experienced, I couldn’t help but laugh at your comment, “we hit the dolly but made our flight.” I’m glad the two of you are okay! Please be safe during your travels to Tennessee.

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  8. Glad you managed to escape that scrape unscathed. I’d add that the critical counterpoint to the obstacles is that your charatcer must want something so she doesn’t have the option of giving up. That element missing has ruined a lot of reads for me.

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  9. This is very scary, Jill. I’m so glad you didn’t come to grief and I love the way you relate this incident to writing. Well done!

    A similar thing happened to me many years ago when bricks began to fall off a truck in front of me and bounce over my car. Luckily none of them hit 😯

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    • Thanks, Dianne! It sounds like you and Billy can relate to my experience. I’m happy you and your car survived without any damage. I get angry at people who haul things that aren’t secure. These days, I avoid traveling behind a truck, especially one that has 12 ladders stacked on the roof. I see that every day during my commute. Have a great weekend and watch out for those stick bugs!

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  10. How SO scary, Jill!!! You definitely must have been guided and protected by God on that day. That is one major obstacle. I love your smooth segues into your writing plots and goals. It really puts it all into place and your reader can understand exactly what you are trying to say or do. 🙂

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  11. Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Maria. Yes, God was looking out for me that day, as He does every day. When I saw the wheelbarrow fall, my first instinct was, this is going to be really bad. I hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend..full of pasta! 🙂

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  12. Oh what a scary incident, and it can happen to anyone at any time. Your goodness saved you that day Jill. I believe a hand of God pulled you out and afterwards you must have wondered what saved you. Anyway we ate very thankful we have you. Without the obstacles the story would not be much fun, each character will overcome them in their own special way. Great post Jill. Thank God you are safe and sound. Take care. God bless you and have a lovely weekend.

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    • Every week, your comment makes my heart smile, Samina. I so appreciate your kind words. That day will never depart my memory. I thank God every day for the gift of life. As you said, it can happen to any of us at any moment. When it comes to writing, throwing a lot of wheelbarrows in my characters path, makes it that much more fun. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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  13. Wonderful lesson about “wheelbarrowing” interesting details in writing, Jill, and I’m VERY glad your real life wheelbarrow ordeal was Divinely protected.

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  14. Wow, my heart leaped into my throat when I read that! So glad you’re ok, Jill! My characters need more wheelbarrows, I think . . .

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  15. Whew – what a ride! I almost skipped to the bottom of the post to see if you came out OK – knowing, of course, that obviously you did! Glad I didn’t – I would have missed the great hurtling-wheelbarrow visual you set up to aid in character development – thanks.

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  16. Oh, and how happy I am that I did! Try tossing some wheelbarrows in your character’s path, Shel…you’ll have a lot of fun. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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  17. Wow, that is a scary highway story. But I love how you used the wheelbarrow as an analogy for obstacles your characters must face. 🙂

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  18. This is such a perfect illustration of hooking a reader! Wonderful post, Jill!

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  19. Wow, that sounds terrifying! I’m glad that you made it out of that situation alright. It’s stories like that which make me scared to learn to drive.

    That is so true about how it applies to writing. Nothing is mpre frustrating than reading about the character who has to overcome practically nothing to achieve his/her goals.

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    • Thanks! It was a true miracle that no one was injured. Don’t be scared, just be aware of all the nuts on the road, once you decide to get your license.

      I agree, it is frustrating when goals are handed to characters on a silver platter. Have a great week!

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  20. Pingback: Obstacles | Mystic Cooking

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