13 Week Rewrite: Week Nine – Suffering

This week, you’ll rewrite up to the point where your protagonist suffers. Certainly your hero struggles in a variety of ways throughout the story, but what makes this moment of suffering unique is that her suffering is due to an awakening sense of the underlying plight. She begins to see that what she set out to accomplish is far more difficult than she had imagined.

There’s a difference between struggling and suffering. You struggle when you’re faced with a difficult task. But you suffer when you sense that your goal may be impossible, but you’re not yet ready to surrender the meaning you’ve attached to your goal.

The moment of suffering arises from the choice that your protagonist made at the midpoint. Now that she’s walked through temptation and become fully committed, she begins to understand the impossibility of achieving her goal. It’s not simply that she’ll lose the fight, but rather that she believes that if she doesn’t win, then she’s a failure and unworthy of her goal.

Remember, the story points are not simply about what happens (plot), but the meaning ascribed to what happens (theme).

The moment of suffering can be one of the most elusive story points and, as such, is frequently where first drafts get derailed. Sometimes, the second half of the second act feels underwritten or what you’re attempting to express can be vague. When one focuses on trying to raise the stakes, there’s a tendency to manufacture conflict that isn’t actually intrinsic to the story. But by exploring your protagonist’s driving want, and noticing how it’s directly conflicted against what she needs, an image may emerge that raises the stakes.

The moment of suffering is the penultimate story point of Act Two, preceding your hero’s surrender. The moment of suffering is crucial because it provides context for what’s still-to-com. Surrender typically doesn’t start until after all other options have been exhausted. The moment of suffering is often where your protagonist realizes that this is her last chance. Where’s the potential for this moment in your story? Exploring this moment to find the most dynamic way to explore your protagonist’s plight.

As you work through this moment of suffering for your hero, ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you show that there’s no going back for your hero, despite her realization that her goal is more difficult than she imagined?
  • What does it look like when your protagonist suffers?
  • How do your antagonists lead to your protagonist’s suffering?
  • What is the most dynamic way to explore this moment?
  • Has your protagonist begun to recognize the plight of her situation at this point? How can you show this?

You can see an example of how I handled this part of the story in The Romance of Eowain on Wattpad, by reading through Scenes 29 – 33.


Come Join
The Wedding of Eithne
Goodreads Ask the Author Event!

Wedding of Eithne - Goodreads Ask The Author Michael E. Dellert, March 11 2017

On 11 March, 2017, we’ll be hosting a Q&A on Goodreads with author Michael E. Dellert!

Michael’s well-versed in both the indie and traditional publishing worlds and has been building a devoted, multi-platform audience that’s passionate about the genre.

As a traditional publishing veteran-turned-indie fiction writer, he’s created a Medieval Celtic Fantasy series, the Matter of Manred Saga, that to date includes three works: Hedge King in WinterA Merchant’s Tale, and the full-length novel The Romance of Eowain.

These heroic action-adventures are a deeply imagined fantasy milieu like few others. Become engrossed in this medieval dystopia of feuding savage tribes, petty hedge-kings, and the merchants and brigands that fight to make a living among them, even as dark forces awaken in world drenched in sword-and-sorcery adventure.

Watch the book trailers for all three works here to get a peek into this fascinating world:

Join us 11 March, 2017 on Goodreads as we discuss the publishing industry, his fictional world, and his forthcoming book, The Wedding of Eithne.



Michael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. He is currently working as an independent freelancer. He lives in the Greater New York City area.

Posted in Editing, Process, Writing craft

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The Author
Michael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. He is currently working as an independent freelancer. He lives in the Greater New York City area.
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