Odyssey of the Mind, Writing Craft

Throw Obstacles in the Path

Obstacles are no fun. They get in the way. They block the road or the path or your dreams.

Obstacles can be small like the time when little Patrick couldn’t finish building his tower because he used up all his wooden blocks. Or the time Jenna couldn’t color the grass green on her picture because she lost her green crayon. Those obstacles proved easy to fix. Patrick dumped out his Lego bin and used Lego blocks to finish his masterpiece. Jenna learned that when mixing yellow and blue, the color you get is green. She used both crayons to color the grass and the result was a shade of green just right for her picture! 

Obstacles can be very big too, like the time when Adam and his friends couldn’t make the curtain of their theater set open up just days before the big show. Or the time when the town of Candy Catropolis was about to lose its Candy Factory due to a shortage of sugar. These obstacles proved harder to fix but not impossible.

Adam and his friends connected the rings of the curtain to a string. They attached the string to a weight and then when it was time for the curtain to open, they dropped the weight to the ground. The curtain opened perfectly on cue! And as for Candy Catropolis, the townspeople built a conveyor belt that ran across town and into the town next to them. They made a deal with their neighbors to send extra chocolate their way, in exchange for sugar!

Obstacles can be a pain. Many times they make it difficult for a character to get what they really want or need.  But they’re very necessary. In fact, the more obstacles you throw in their way, the better. Readers don’t want to read about people who always get what they want. That’s boring! They want to see people work for it a little bit…and maybe even a lot.

We, as readers tend to root for the underdog. If you can throw obstacle after obstacle in the path that your character is walking down, we’ll feel sympathy for him. We’ll begin to cheer him on-even when he falls or hits a roadblock.  And eventually when he does succeed, we’ll cheer louder that almost anybody! So don’t be afraid to throw some obstacles in the path of your characters. Remember, the bigger the obstacle, the bigger the celebration at the end.   

And if you find yourself hitting an obstacle some place- a problem that’s getting in the way of you reaching your dream, don’t give up. Not on your tower or your picture or your story.  Do like my Odyssey of the Mind kids do…  Work through it. Brainstorm it. Find a different way to solve it. And then watch what happens… 

If you can imagine it,

You can achieve it.

If you can dream it,

You can become it

So go on out there and make your dream come true.  And don’t let the obstacles stop you! 🙂

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