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Stirring the Plot: Friends and Foes

In addition to the antagonist (sometimes in place of) there will be friends and foes who provide obstacles to the scene and overall story goals. 

They don’t have to be evil masterminds or have malevolent intent. They can be fake friends, family members, coworkers, the antagonist’s henchmen, or part of Dick’s social circle. They can be loved ones and love interests.

The Obstructionist: Jane loves to play Devil’s advocate. She points out how things can go wrong and the reasons why Dick shouldn’t consider his goal. She puts up roadblocks just to prove her point. She erodes Dick's ambition and makes his resolve falter. She encourages Dick to give up instead of push for the finish line.

The Snake: Sally likes to push buttons: everyone’s buttons. She has no personal issue with Dick; she simply enjoys messing with people. If Dick innocently wanders into her path, she strikes instinctively like a cobra. She examines per prey carefully and figures out what he wants and makes certain he doesn’t get it. She might trick Dick into doing something he doesn’t want to do. If Dick unknowingly alienates her, she attacks aggressively. Her secret weapon is her ability to manipulate people. She can keep Dick distracted from reaching his goal or convince him he does not really want it. If she has the power to withhold what he needs, she does so with a sly smile.

The Gossip: Jane says what she wants when she wants regardless of its impact. If Dick has a secret, she  blurts it out, usually at the worst possible moment. If you alienate Jane, she gossips and digs until she finds a juicy bone she can use against you when you least expect it. Jane can be thoughtless or deliberate in her attack. She wouldn’t know a healthy boundary if it bit her. Her behavior can embarrass or betray, create an awkward moment, or a dangerous one.

The Manipulator: Sally is dangerous because you never really know what she is thinking. She never offers a sincere opinion. She answers questions with questions. She isn’t intentionally manipulative; she’s simply a vat of Jello in which Dick can drown. Her opinions vary from moment to moment, so you can’t trust anything she says. Her emotions and attachments are shallow. If Dick needs information from her, even if she gives a direct answer, he won’t be able to trust it. If he needs her cooperation, she’ll fail him. If thwarted, Sally pretends to be Dick’s ally but stands on the sidelines bursting with laughter when he fails.

The Narcissist: Jane isn’t interested in messing with Dick. She is focused on the woman in the mirror. Jane is all about Jane. It never occurs to her that other people have needs, wants, and opinions. Getting something from her is an impossible task unless Dick has something Jane wants. She will concede for personal gain, not to help Dick out. Dick wastes time trying to figure out the right carrot. Once Jane has her carrot, she can’t be trusted.

The Enforcer:
Sally acts as the thought police. She has a very stringent view of right and wrong. She is quick to point out when people behave in unacceptable ways. If Dick needs her approval or assistance, he may have to hide what he is doing or waste time pretending to be someone he isn’t. If he disappoints her, she quickly withdraws her support and makes certain other people do too. She will actively work against his goal just to put him in his place.

These friends and foes are not rational. Dick can’t reason with them. He has to find ways to mollify them or go around them and that creates effective tension and stretches out the timeline.

They can make Dick doubt his goal or convince him to give up. They can make Dick believe he is the crazy one.

Use these friends and foes to create speed bumps, stop signs, and road blocks at scene and overall story level.

For more on how to create obstacles, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict available in paperback and E-book.

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