Whether you write romantic suspense, romance, speculative fiction, young adult, or another genre of fiction, establishing a credible threat to your character is essential to building the conflict in your story.
It may be a conflict as a love triangle is built, another race is threatening to anialate your own, or a villain is threatening to kill the heroine. Regardless of the type of danger you are inflicting on your character, it is important that you establish a strong threat.
The following Hawaii Five-O Clip gives us a few ideas of how this might happen:
Four Tips To Establishing A Threat To Your Character Hawaii Five-O Style:
1. Establish Believable Placement of Characters – Notice that Catherine is invited to be logically headed to a place with purpose when she is abducted. Establishing the reason for her placement at the convenient place and time for catastrophe to occur is essential.
2. Establish Credible Threat – The phone call made to Steve from his enemy establishes the threat to his girlfriend. Notice how there are time lines for the threat turning deadly to increase the sense that Catherine could die.
3. Intensify Threat – The villain intensifies the threat by showing just how evil he is when he hits Catherine. If he didn’t do this, his power seems to be less in the scene. Also, note that Steve hears this taking place, making his concern for Catherine’s safety feel even more real.
4. Show Why We Should Care- This component happens a bit earlier in this episode where Steve shows he cares for Catherine. We all want to cheer for love, so we care if something happens to her because it will hurt him as well.
Note: The first three tips build the conflict and the last one develops tension. Susan May Warren helped me understand this difference between conflict and tension. Conflict is what stands in the way of a character reaching their goals and tension is established when we show why the reader should care.
A few of my favorite movies and books for establishing a threat to the victims are:
*”Love Comes Softly” – Marty is left alone without her husband. Each of these steps are here. If you can’t remember, the fourth is showing that she is pregnant which makes the reader care.
*”The Pelican Brief”