3 Ways To Mess Up Your Character’s World And Hook Your Readers

While a great premise, unforgettable characters, and a fantastic fictional world are surefire ways to keep readers invested in your story, if everything is smooth sailing for your characters, it makes for a pretty boring tale.

Even the happiest of stories requires some upheaval, a hook, to keep the reader on board. But don’t worry, your character doesn’t need to lose their entire family to achieve such a thing, but messing up their world is a requirement, and here are 3 ways to do it…

3 Ways To Mess Up Your Character’s World And Hook Your Readers

1) Negative Changes

A divorce, a death, a teen/child character being forced to move to a new place/school against their will, or a breakup. Add something to your story that disturbs the peace of your characters.

It might be the catalyst for their journey or a side story, but the negative change should force a change. What your characters do in the face of this is up to you. It could inspire your MC to fix their life, complete a promise, or reach out to family they haven’t seen in years. Something good could come from something awful.

Or they could go the Breaking Bad route and that negative change in their life could be their Heisenberg transformation, where they become the worst version of themselves. In any case, it will mess up their world and add the spark of reader interest you’re looking for.

2) Fast Failures

If negative changes are too heavy for your story, something as simple as a failure could be what you need to prompt your character into different circumstances and encourage your reader to follow along to see what happens.

It could be the first time your MC has failed at something. Maybe they’re an overachiever, always getting what they set their mind to. When they don’t, it could be catastrophic to their world, and fun for you to write about!

Or perhaps your MC has opened their own business and fulfilled a lifelong dream only to see it fail. Now they need to move on from that disappointment. Their growth could be the element your story is missing, or that failure could be the last puzzle piece to who your character is. Making it part of them will bring them to life on the page and give your readers a reason to root for them.

Don’t forget when adding failure that you need to play out the consequences as well. What happens when your MC doesn’t get the pay rise they need? Where will your MC and their family go when the failure of their business causes them to lose their home? If you’re going to introduce a failure, introduce the consequences too and see what it does for your story and the attention of your readers.

3) Lackluster Luck

While you don’t want to rely heavily on luck to resolve problems, putting some lackluster luck in the mix could be the kick your tale needs to create its hook.

Get some conflict going and brainstorm how everything that could go wrong, does go wrong, and lean into the chaos.

While you might ask why a writer would do this to their characters, know that when things go wrong, they need to be put right. With that journey, your characters will grow, learn, and hopefully triumph. That’s your hook, and that’s what readers want to see, so introduce ways to mess up your character’s world. Make them different people by the final chapter and don’t be afraid to do what’s needed to get them there.

— K.M. Allan

What’s your fave way to mess up a character’s world? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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16 thoughts on “3 Ways To Mess Up Your Character’s World And Hook Your Readers

  1. I’m always making my characters mess up of their own accord, or from natural causes. But I kinda forgot about good, old fashioned, bad luck. It happens to us all! The only pitfall is putting too many dark clouds over one character’s head, so that it seems unbelievable. This is a great post! Thanks for giving me a lot to think about, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! So glad that you found it helpful. I didn’t even think of messing things up with self sabotage or natural causes. Those are great tips that’ll I’ll definitely keep in mind for future plotting. Thanks for sharing 😊.


      1. Oh no! So sorry to hear you caught it again. I hope you are fully recovered and won’t have any lasting issues. I’m sure your writing progress ground to a screeching halt. Sending hugs!!
        The visit home was interesting if you enjoy intrigue, lies, drama, and hurt feelings. Otherwise, no! Family dynamics change over time, and mine is getting cranky. Good thing I live 600 miles away!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thankfully it was much milder this time. I made sure to rest, though, and I’m feeling pretty good now. It did delay the start of my next draft by a week or so, but I’m back into outlining mode now so I can start writing again in May.

        Sorry to hear about the family drama. Yes, sometimes it helps to live far away 🤣.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Reblog and Writing Update! - E. M. Sherwood Foster

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