This past weekend, I was at a crossroads with two shows I've been watching on Netflix: Dexter and Breaking Bad.
At the end of season six of Dexter, someone discovers Dexter Morgan's secret. At the end of the first half of season five of Breaking Bad, someone discovers Walter White's secret. Both characters are at a crossroads, a dead-end for their careers, it would seem.
However, in Walter's case, there are six more episodes left in the second half of season five. In Dexter's case, the mild-mannered blood splatter analyst for the Miami Police Department has two full seasons left.
Not quite a dead-end. And I know they don't spend those episodes/seasons behind bars.
Many times in both shows--and others--the characters face obstacles that appear to have no favorable outcome for them. Yet, they move on. They overcome them. When writing your own characters, don't be afraid to put them in situations where it seems like they're impossible to escape from. Don't hold back. Push the envelope to the limits.
Then, write them out of it. It makes for a more interesting story.
You can always tell when the author cops out and doesn't quite push the characters--I bet a story just popped into your mind, something you read and almost (or maybe you did) threw the book away in disgust.
Now, not everything has to be this no-holds-barred thrill ride. But hitting a level of tension that seems impossible to overcome does make for a more interesting story. If you disagree, then why were so many people reeling when the final episode of Breaking Bad aired?
(BTW, Netflix has now finally released on their streaming service the second half of the fifth and final season--it took me about 48 hours to binge-watch them all. It was worth it. My hat--pork pie hat, in other words--is off to Vince Gilligan and the entire crew of Breaking Bad for creating such an incredible story).