?
General info:
Home
Joining
Rules 
How it works
Participation
Too Many Emails?
Formatting
Listserv Settings
Contact Us

Critiquing Lists:
Fiction
Lovestory
Nonfiction
Novels
Poetry
Practice
Script-writing
Child/Young adult

Discussion Lists:
Writing
MarketChat
SFChat

The IWW Blog Writing Advice

Other Topics:
FAQ
LINKS
Our administrators
Other writing lists
Books on writing
IWW History
Showcase of Successes


IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: The Road to Hell (v. 3)

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Prepared by: Rhéal Nadeau
Posted on: July 23, 2002
Reposted on: August 15, 2004
Reposted on: August 7, 2005
Reposted, revised, on: March 30, 2008
Reposted on: September 13, 2009
Reposted on: November 7, 2010
Reposted on: July 15, 2012
Reposted on: November 16, 2014
Revised and Reposted on: May 14, 2017

-------------------------

Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a scene in which the character's actions
backfire, leading to a result contrary to what the actor desired. Show how this
narrative can increase tension and thus drive the story forward.

-------------------------

Sometimes our characters' intentions may be foiled--unforeseen outcomes result
from their actions, and that leads to further plot twists.

It's been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This principle is
also referred to as the "law of unintended consequences." Any action might have
consequences the actor hadn't thought about and didn't want. In writing, this
situation can help drive the plot and maintain or increase the protagonist's level
of difficulty.

Here are some trivial and less trivial examples of the law of unintended
consequences:

-- If we tell a child not to lick a metal post on a freezing day, the child is more
likely to try it to see if that's true. Similarly, a standard response to a "Fresh
Paint" sign is to touch to see if the paint really is wet. In either case, telling
someone not to do something increases the temptation to do just that.

-- In the grander scheme of things, legislators run into this all the time. For
example, city planners try to deal with traffic jams by building more roads,
with more lanes. As a result, people drive more, so the roads are just as
jammed as before. In another example, Prohibition didn't reduce the negative
impacts of drinking, but instead increased criminal behavior.

Literature gives us many examples of this principle. Consider the classic
Romeo and Juliet tragedy.

Juliet's parents try to plan her life, who she will marry. This only drives her to a
desperate act of rebellion. Juliet tries to escape her parents' control by faking
her own death--but since Romeo never gets the message about this ploy, her
acts lead to both their deaths. Throughout this play, we find examples of actions
leading to unwanted consequences.

Use these examples to lead you to an idea of your own, where a good plan has gone
arwy.

-------------------------

Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a scene in which the character's actions
backfire, leading to a result contrary to what the actor desired. Show how this
narrative can increase tension and thus drive the story forward.

-------------------------

In your critiques, note whether you recognize the intention that goes awry, the way
that happens, and the consequences. As always, discuss the quality of the writing in
general.


Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.