The different types of “Peril”

When we see the word ‘peril’, we often think of the physical, a  ” damsel tied to a railroad track” type of danger, the kind where the Good Guy™ better do something and fast or there’ll be a messy corpse somewhere .

The truth is that these days, most stories are not that cut and dried about what constitutes ‘peril’ and danger and whatever other tribulations that occur with a story. A lot of the conflict within a story comes not so much about out and out “Danger” as it does from opposition; opposition to getting that girl, that job, that week off when you need it.

The ‘peril’ comes from the potential negative consequences of not getting the thing you desire.

And sometimes (heck, most of the time in your better stories) Perils can be stacked up like sticks in a Jenga™ game; solving one issue might not solve all your issues. In fact, solving one thing might create another problem: Getting that big promotion means that you might have to miss your girlfriends’s best friend’s wedding and THAT could be a real game-changer in your relationship.


When plotting out your writing, take time and effort to make your perils interesting and complex.


Don’t worry about being ‘convoluted’; readers like a bit of messy in their fiction. Our lives are often messy and complicated and hard to unravel, why shouldn’t our reading be a little of the same?

The best writing has us constantly wondering whether or not the ‘hero’–another concept that can be used in a lot of differing ways to make the story interesting– will overcome all the things that stand in their way and make it to the final pages of the story having achieved all that they want to.

Often the best thing about a novel is that the reader is anticipating something coming ‘down the pipe’, based of what they see happening in the story:the joy of being a reader and having that feeling of suspecting something will happen and seeing it come to pass.

Will the arrogant  character see his arrogance before it’s too late?

Will the friendship survive the decision a character needs to make?

Will…….well, whatever you want to happen…will it?


Ideally, peril should be just one part of the story, with characterization, setting and plotting being the other things that mesh with it.

Peril, like any part of good writing, should seem organic to the entire story.

Peril, to me is something that, when it comes to the character, the reader should not feel like it was introduced just to move the story along or simply to give the character ‘something interesting to do.’

Peril should be something that comes out of the situation that is set up by the parts of the story that have come before.

As long as the peril and the resolution of it flow naturally and logically from what you’ve written, readers will accept it, even if the peril is something they don’t want for the character.

So, go out there and write some interesting, imaginative ‘peril’ for your characters  and an even more interesting way for them to overcome it:

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