Obsess for Success ~ Guest Post by Josh Langston

Help me welcome best selling author Josh Langston to the Muse.  I decided I needed a Monday off and was able to persuade Josh to fill in for me.


Oh. Lord.

I’m supposed to do a guest blog for Kathi. And, in order to match the quality level she’s achieved, I have to knock out something clever, original, and interesting.

Cripes! And she does this every couple days? Okay, no problem. I’ll just dig into my well o’ writerly wisdom and extract a nugget about– Oh, I dunno. How ’bout developing characters?

One thing that’s always worked for me is obsession. Give a character something to obsess over, and he or she (or it, for you SF folk) is almost guaranteed to be more interesting.

Literature is rife with obsessed characters, and for good reason. Readers love reading about people who do crazy things, and an obsession is a great way to launch characters deep into crazy. The obsession doesn’t have to be bizarre, like being bonkers for great white whales, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Want more concrete examples than Cap’n Ahab? How about Wile E. Coyote? There’s an obsession! And as the roadrunner is evidently obsessed with speed, it’s easy to see how a plot might evolve.

Another classic: “The Fugitive.” Originally done as a TV series, the story became a movie with Harrison Ford as an innocent man framed for murder. His obsession: find the real killer, a man with one arm. Not to be outdone, the story provided a cop similarly obsessed, only he wanted nothing more than to catch the fugitive.

A couple years back we read in the papers about the mother of a teenaged girl who desperately wanted to make the high school cheerleading squad. Yet, the girl’s obsession was no match for her mothers! Mom instigated a plot to murder one of the girl’s cheerleading rivals.

With a little imagination, you can come up with all kinds of obsessions that can lead to amazingly fun characters. What about an obsession for a neighbor? An award? Freedom? Power? Mint-flavored jelly beans?

Once you know what it is your character desperately wants, it’s easy to put obstacles in the way. On a simplistic level, that pretty much spells out a whole story. If you can do that for a couple more characters and arrange for their obsessions to conflict, you’re well on your way to creating something even better: a marketable story.

Obsess for Success!

Josh Langston has been a writer all his life, beginning as a child in Minneapolis, MN, and continuing to his current residence in Marietta, GA, which he shares with his bride of four decades, their two undisciplined mutts, and an indeterminate number of scrawny goldfish.

His short stories have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and he co-authored the bestselling Druids trilogy with Canadian writer Barbara Galler-Smith. His latest novel, Resurrection Blues, is available as an e-book and will soon be available in a print version as well. His new e-book short story collection, Christmas Beyond the Box, came out just last week.



3 responses

  1. What a fantastic idea. I would never have thougth about it in those terms, but I can see how useful the practice would be. Thanks! Great post 🙂

    December 5, 2011 at 5:38 am

    • Just more tools for the tool box. Hopefully I can get Josh back again, right now he’s uber busy finishing up a project before the holidays. Glad you enjoyed his post.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:07 am

  2. CJD

    Welcome to the Muse and thanks for this great post! It’s always important to have a strong focus for your character(s), however unusual.

    December 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm

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