My current WIP involves a deliberate miscarriage of justice.

I started out with three main characters:

J - a young girl who is effected by both the crime committed and the injustice delivered

D - a clever detective with an interesting past and a dear friend who is a career criminal

N - a career criminal who is taking some time to develop a relationship with his girlfriend and his children ( both biological and unofficial)

J finds her mother and two others dead - runs for help when she understands what’s happened.

That brings in D, who knows that N, whom he’ll never catch for what he has done, is connected to this triple homicide and it looks like an opportunity to put an old friend in jail. He truly believes N will either end up dead or in prison and would be better off inside.

N, unaware of this, lives his life. Unbeknownst to him, evidence is being collected that will put him behind bars for the rest of his life. Murder, conspiracy to commit, etc.

Late at night the police enter his home to arrest him, but failures of procedure lead to a near fatal misunderstanding.

N is shot six times and wakes up in the hospital handcuffed to a bed

N is later taken out of police custody by a shrink who wants to run an experiment which involves signing N out of the hospital and turning him loose. The following three plot points are also part of the experiment.

N goes to a pub and SWAT shows up to end the nonexistent hostage situation

N escapes

N is snatched and interrogated

N is later released only to be snatched by a vigilante who thinks he’s hot and wants to have some fun with him

N does what he thinks he needs to to survive and eventually manages escape

N walks into a police station and surrenders

N tells his girlfriend things weren’t really real, but were fun so she will hate him rather than spend her life visiting him

Now this is where I am beginning to wonder if his trip to prison might not be uneventful - giving him another difficult choice to make. Situation (sheriff he knows is driving him in and a deer crosses the road, causing him to temporarily lose control of the vehicle. Sheriff is injured, N has a chance to get away - or stay and help.

  • 3
    It sounds complicated, but that can be good and bad. Is there such a thing as too many challenges? A story doesn't need to resolve all problems, only one at a time, and make progress.
    – DWKraus
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 2:05
  • It is rather complicated. A consultant on my other wip told me a story about a relative and I needed to know more. He has told me as much as he was going to. I realized I probably would not be the only one to want to know what happened next - so began this one. Each decision a character makes spawns consequences.
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 2:15
  • It looks like D needs to somehow come back in and do something with the story to resolve some of the issues. D has seriously compromised ethical standards and put N's life at risk. What, exactly, I can't say. So what exactly is the question, here?
    – DWKraus
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 2:24
  • D will try - and has begun, but my main query is have I put too much on N at this point? Should that deer not cross the road?
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 2:26
  • Yes, have you seen The Expanse season 4? They piled so much crap on everyone in the last half of the season, they were obviously going to escape from it all. Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 17:31

7 Answers 7


Problems make Great Drama:

As a person who's life has been affected closely by murder of/by family, I want/need stories that show redemption of wrongful people, but also wrongful people being found responsible for the actions/choices they have made.

It sounds complicated, but that can be good and bad. Is there such a thing as too many challenges? A story doesn't need to resolve all problems, only one at a time, and make progress.

It looks like D needs to somehow come back in and do something with the story to resolve some of the issues. D has seriously compromised ethical standards and put N's life at risk. What, exactly, I can't say.

Should the deer cross the road? Of course it should! N has to make a moral choice that looks like the wrong thing to do, but somehow proves that right action ultimately results in good outcomes - even if the good outcome is self-redemption. Or even if N goes to prison, his GF hears about his right action and follows her heart. Don't know exactly what, but it seems to be the correct way to go. You may have a different end-game in mind.

Good luck!

  • N will be going to prison - he will spend at least two volumes there. J will be trying to get the Innocence Project involved, but that comes later. His GF (fiancee as he asked her) believes he was unfaithful. He essentially told her so but it was not completely true. While captured by the vigilante, he did what was required of him as he expected her to kill him. Would word of his unselfish assistance to the Sheriff be enough to overcome such a grievance? She is a kind young woman, but has her pride. Or does D have to get the vigilante to explain to the GF that N had no choice?
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 22:20
  • @Rasdashan I'd have to read the story. I do get the sense N will discover the real killer of J's mother in prison, and this also could provide some sense of justice/story going full circle (The story must circle around back to the murder at some point/justice for J - too Shawshank Redemption?). Maybe J (as adoptive daughter/fellow female, likely associate somehow w. GF) bears witness for him (good character reference goes a long way).
    – DWKraus
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 23:20

While most people would advise you with the same old: it is in the execution. I will agree but have to add several things.

  • Time. The Lannister brothers go through an insane journey that is still being continued in the books. Kaladin from The Way of Kings goes through hell and back. I won't bore you with more examples. So what is the common thing that makes me consider those stories excellent and makes us all, or at least most of us, agree on that? Time. Not only in world years but also in pages. In both worlds the characters are not the only one and, GRMM has more but it is the same idea, and there are many other POV chapters that take us into different directions and make us forget all about character X. But if you have 3 chapters to put your criminal through and the guy is just going through all that then I'm sorry to say that I will roll my eyes out and consider it cheesy. But spread it out and it gets better.
  • Yes. This is more of an opinion and most people will have different thresholds. But even if you base stuff off reality you can't just add more and more and more torture to the character. The last book I read like that I still consider really terrible because of that. You can't just hurt and hurt and hurt the character. Call it whatever you want. People don't expect that and I would advise not to be corny.
  • Law of diminishing returns. Say you write a female character and she is raped in chapter 1. This is a major point and, if the writing is even average, we would be sad and shocked and angry and just devastated. Now in chapter 2 she is also raped. You finish chapter 3 with another rape. And by chapter 12 she has been raped like 10 times. Well. By chapter 12 I have become desensitized to her rapes. I don't even care how will the rapes are written or how emotional the thing is. The volume of tear jerking here is too much. This is not me. We all know the Mary Sue is bad but the reason it is bad is because a Mary Sue falls into that category of too much of X can be Y. That could be too much of a good thing can be bad. So really use your hurt or obstacles with reason. Don't just torture the character continuously.
  • My scars prove my worth. Cheesy quote aside this is a simple and great way to actually make your obstacles count. X Kept a vow and so he went to jail. But his girl broke up with him and he lost his job. X choose to run into the burning building to save the little girl but he got 3rd degree burns and broke a leg...etc. again much like the bodily scars the character has to collect all sorts of scars as a result of their journey. If even a game master would tell that you must have consequences in the world then it is the same with stories.
  • Obstacles that fit the genre. I won't get into genre now but basically you should not write a story with elements from other stuff and obstacles thrown in there from all over the place to give extra redemption or whatever. Getting framed and shot and all that is enough. Don't try to add him having to solve a global zombie crises and calculate the needed materials to build a space elevator.

Lastly I'm not against anything. Merely point out to stuff in theory that should be addressed and noticed. It is all about what you wrote after all.

  • I suppose I should clarify matters a bit. There are scenes where N can actually relax and enjoy something. J, whom he considers a daughter, visits him in the hospital. A different detective doesn’t like the neat package D is wrapping things up in and suspects there is more to the story. He listens to J who tells him who must’ve killed her mother. He spends what time he can looking for the real killer in a closed case. He has other cases, so while a priority, he can only devote so much time to it. Looks more like he’s working for a retrial.
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 16:30
  • The events I listed, from the botched arrest to his self surrender take a month and 400 pages.
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 16:33

I can only say for myself, but I think that a character is only overloaded with problems of the new problem doesn’t significantly add to the issue. If you can cut a problem and not much changes - cut it.

However, there are ways to add weight to problems in order to keep them: such as keeping an emotional toll. If your character starts as a "normal" person, at least emotionally, getting shot and having to run from the police would have a serious strain on his mental fortitude.

Another way to increase the amount of problems in a story is to solve some before adding others. The Martian is a great example of this. The author Andy Weir said that he wrote the book by “throwing everything he could at his main character”.

But in my opinion, all that goes out the window if your problems aren’t logical. Reading your plot points, I got lost when you introduced the shrink and SWAT invasion. Unless they make sense in context, I’d suggest cutting them. The "shrink wanting to run an experiment" doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the plot. The "SWAT invasion" seems random and forced. For SWAT to get a false call for a hostage situation, just while he’s in the pub... And then it goes down from there. A vigilante...

If you make sure all the problems fit the situation logically, it won’t seem overfilled. Whereas if they don’t make sense of why they happened, then even a few problems won’t fit right.

  • The shrink specializes in psychopaths and sociopaths, which one character believes N to be so contacts the shrink. The shrink decides to put N in a situation where his character will be revealed to him by his choices. Will he flee? He goes to a pub he likes. More pressure must be applied. The fake swat call is made, causing N to escape. The shrink sends some people to capture N so they can discuss his choices.
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 17:53
  • That does connect the timeline in a fluent way, but I have never heard of a shrink doing something like that. One of the main issues with plot points, is that if for whatever reason the reader doesn’t think that is a normal occurrence, then it will ‘jar the reader from the story’ if you will. If you build a world where this is common, then make sure the reader knows this, maybe by putting in other examples of this at lower stakes earlier in the book. But if the shrink puts in the fake call to SWAT, and afterwords everyone is ok with that, then I personally would find that strange.
    – Doragon
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 18:19
  • Said shrink has a sideline - very illegal. He realizes N might be a good recruit, so it is under those auspices that he does these things.
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 18:02
  • Maybe have N think it’s a real SWAT invasion until much later when the shrink twist comes in. Hide from N the police investigation into the false SWAT call (if there is one - should be). If N (& thereby the reader) know the shrink is playing him to early, that might overwhelm the reader. If the shrink plot is much later, maybe minimize interaction between N and the shrink until then. The less a future plot point is involved now, the better the plot will flow. Not to say that you shouldn’t set up future events, but if you build an event too early (next book), it might feel wired to the reader.
    – Doragon
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 18:20
  • I don't think that the shrink is a bad character or a stupid arc, nor would I think too much about shrinks not doing that kind of thing, because if there is going to be any character that is going to do it it needs to be someone who aims to effect the character's mind. Finally, although this isn't common knowledge and won't help with the character expectations thing. Psychotherapist is an unregulated term that anyone can use, and I've heard there are many fakes who might not even know they don't know what they're doing. Not that I'm saying the shrink should be a fake, it's just a thought.
    – Caston
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 5:13

It's all in how you write the story.

I'm going to be honest with you because I think you can take it, so here it goes.

Your story has a lot of potential to be really interesting, especially if you make it sound real. If it doesn't sound real, then a) no one is going to read it, and b) it doesn't matter if your story is too complicated or not because no one is going to want to read it.

I think that your plot could be interesting. Complicating a story more just makes it sound real, and that's good. But if you make the complications arbitrary (with no point), then you just have complications for the sake of having complications.

This is a link that helps you understand if you have too much plot in your story.

Beta readers are also a great way to figure out if your story is too complicated. If your readers follow your story and understand what's happening, then great! You don't have an overcomplicated plot. But if they get confused at key parts of the story, then your book is too confusing and you need to change something.

The bottom line is this: make it readable and understandable. if it isn't those things, then yes, you have too many obstacles in your story.

I hope this helped. :)

  • I had two beta readers - a cousin who seemed enthused and protective of N, hating D - but I lost touch with him as he drifted away into Qanon. The other is a current inmate who is reading it chapter by chapter through Jpay and gives me tips regarding prison scenes and characters. So far - he likes it. He also likes James Patterson.
    – Rasdashan
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 18:14

My answer is yes and no. Ok, so here's what I think: There can definitely be too many obstacles in a character's path... however. The amount of obstacles that can be in said character's path is all based on your own skill as a writer. If you can somehow implement all of these obstacles into your novel without making it seem too unrealistic then I say go for it.

Readers get tired of reading a story in which a character never gets a break. When something is always blocking his way the story get boring and feels like there's never a moment of peace, which doesn't only take away from the feel of the story, but it also makes it seem too unrealistic. There have been several books that I've tried to read that I've ended up putting down for months on end because the main character (or whatever character who's POV the book is currently following), never seems to get a moment of rest, something exiting is always happening in their life, which leads to an overload.

The only reason I could come back to these books after the many months of being away is simply because the person who wrote the book was good at making a whole bunch of problems seem like a lot less than it actually is. Which is why I say yes and no. Yes because there definitely can be too many obstacles in a character's path. But no because the amount of obstacles that can be put in a character's path is greatly based on your ability to write those obstacles in without making it feel like an overload.

But along with that I also think that you can definitely put this one thing in there. It's not an extremely exiting obstacle, it's just an important one.

Plus, one more obstacle never hurt anyone... I mean, unless we're talking about this situation when someone else's life is at stake, but we just won't worry about that right now.


Yes. It is possible.

But the question is who and how makes the judgement? What is the criteria for how many is too many?

Some readers may just get tired of reading so much and want the story wrapped up.

You need to do what is logical and that fits your story so it is complete without needless side detours.



There are two main problems.

The first is that if you throw in too much, the reader will be unable to see the story as a complete thing and a work of art. How many is too many partly depends on the skill of the author in delineating the complications and how they relate to it, so beta readers may be necessary.

The second is that if you throw too many, the reader may start to say that this is implausible, or even impossible, to really happen. When the reader starts to think that you, as the author, are just hosing the character, the suspension of disbelief is broken.

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