The importance of consequences in fiction cannot be overstated. Read this post to find out why you need them in your stories.
We read fiction because it is not like real life where there are often no consequences for terrible people and the awful things they do. In fiction, for a reader to be satisfied, we must ensure that there are consequences for characters’ actions.
What Is A Consequence?
According to Oxford, it is ‘a result or effect of an action or condition.’ One of the most common phrases associated with the word is ‘bear the consequences’, which means to ‘accept responsibility for the negative results of one’s action’.
The term is mostly used in a negative context to show the effect, result, or outcome of something that happened at an earlier time.
Why You Need Consequences In Fiction
If our characters do something good or something bad, or if they fail to do something, there must be consequences for their actions. This is especially true when you are planning the end of your book. Readers want an ending that satisfies them.
Our characters’ actions and choices move stories to their conclusions. Consequences give meaning to their actions. You could say they give the possibility of showing the moral of the story.
If there are no consequences for bad things that happen in a society, apathy and lawlessness sets in. There is a sense that nothing matters and people become despondent.
We do not want this to happen when people read our books. Readers must feel that everything matters and that there will be a reckoning for the actions of the characters.
How To Use Consequences In Fiction
In their purest form, consequences show the cause and effect that people want from storytelling. For example, if your protagonist has the opportunity to kill (or remove) the antagonist, but does not do it, show how that person continues to wreak havoc in their world.
We write about character flaws and we say that you must include them, but you should only include them if they affect the story. For example, in Othello, Othello’s jealousy (character flaw) drives him to murder. The consequences of this flaw make a difference in the story.
Consequences allow for change and change is great for storytelling. Readers want to see characters go through an ordeal before they reach their goals. They want them to change and to learn lessons along the way. For example, if a character forgets to go to a meeting, they may lose their job and this changes the trajectory of the story.
But, the most important way to use them is by showing that people sow what they reap. Show that there is a reaction to an action that was taken. This is an important part of the pleasure and satisfaction readers get from stories.
Make sure your stories matter. Include consequences in fiction if you want your readers to be satisfied.
© Amanda Patterson
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