Writing Prompt Story Starter: Plot Obstacles

Shutterstock / vectorfusionart © plot obstacles

For this week’s story starter, I didn’t have so much an image in mind, but that of plot obstacles.

First off, what is a plot obstacle? This relates to the main character’s goal in a story – how obstacles obstruct the character’s way.

This makes for good storytelling – propelling the story forward, whether the character achieves the goal or not. Not all goals have to be successful. The important elements are the character’s journey and development.

At times, we read perfectly pleasant stories on the Fiction team – but there is no obstacle/conflict for the character to overcome. The end result is, the character fails to make an impact, and the story leaves no lasting impression.

I know when I’ve read a good “Friend” story as I’m still thinking about it after I’ve closed the document and put it across for Fiction Ed Lucy’s appraisal. Often, the writer has made the character work through a conflict.

Common obstacles and conflicts in “Friend” stories are physical, emotional, romantic and the antagonist.


For example, the character has a job interview to attend, but then the car breaks down, or there is a traffic jam.


Maybe the character has a crisis of confidence. “There’s no way I’ll get the job – everyone else will be better than me.” Challenges will help develop the character through the course of the story.


Romantic conflicts are popular in the magazine. The character finds out the job interviewer is an ex-love interest. Will this have an effect on the interview process, and what happens if romantic feelings resurface?


Finally, there is the antagonistic obstacle. There is someone directly opposing the character from achieving the story goal of the dream job.

It’s important to note that obstacles and conflict doesn’t equate to raining down the Ten Plagues. A story should contain peaks and troughs, the latter where the character takes stock of events, and this might involve writing that is more reflective.

When it comes to your next “Friend” story, which plot obstacles will you make your character work through?

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.