Obstacles are the heart of conflict. Some of them are external. What’s a good fantasy without the evil wizard or creature, ready to destroy our hero/heroine? Sometimes, the obstacle is an item, like the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. Other genres have external obstacles as well. Romance has the “other” at varying levels of closeness with either the hero or heroine. Mystery has some pretty obvious external obstacles. I haven’t touched contemporary fiction in a while but I’m sure they have theirs as well.
If an external obstacle is good, it will lead our main character (and perhaps others) through an internal conflict where they face what I feel is the heart of any good story: internal obstacles. Those are more tricky. Whatever internal obstacle you choose has to fit the character you’re building, or (like with the One Ring) fit the rules you’ve established. And once you’ve had a character overcome that obstacle, you must never, ever put it back without a good reason. The beauty of internal obstacles is that they can cover such a wide spectrum. Any emotion or character flaw can become an internal obstacle. And that same obstacle can become the gift that helps your character win the day. I love it when a book does that.
What do you think?