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Classic Authors and Irritants of Minor Complication

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The following are classic examples of minor complications occurring in the novel.

And what do we mean by that? The basic definition: whatever "complicates" the story but is not directly related to the major dramatic complication or central plot conflict. Minors may erupt in the same way tornadoes spin off from hurricanes, or they may be unrelated: a surprise event, a dropped glass, a bellicose salesman wearing a Prussian spike helmet, i.e., whatever irritates, provokes, or disturbs, and in usually such a way as to either advance the story, cause suspense, shove the character into revealing a trait, or some combination thereof.  
"The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway
Scene 8:  
Robert Cohn, friend of the narrator, enters the scene while narrator is having a conversation with another character by the name of Harvey.  Very soon, Harvey baits Cohn, insults him.  As a result, Cohn behaves unsure of himself.  

Cohn's girlfriend then enters scene and begins to expose Cohn, attempting to embarrass him badly.  
Scene 27:  
Later, another character, Brett‘s fiance Michael, insults Cohn, comparing him to a steer who is "always hanging about so."  Rather than intelligently rebut his tormentor, Cohn becomes furious and leaves the scene.  
"Therese Racquin" by Emile Zola
Laurent and Therese are having an affair and decide it will best serve their interest if they kill Therese's husband, Camille.  As Laurent is throwing Camille from a boat into the Seine river, Camille savagely bites Laurent's neck.  This is a strong minor complication, for the reader senses this bite mark will return to haunt Laurent.  
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scene 4:  
Jordon Baker reveals to the narrator, Nick, details of Tom Buchanan's affair with Myrtle.  This never develops to a real "subplot" status, but is a cause of tension and suspense.  Unlike some minor complications, this one weaves skillfully into the storyline, for in the end, it is Myrtle who is killed by Daisy as she drives Gatsby's car.  

Scene 6:  
Minor complication causes verbal fencing between Tom and Daisy, thus putting Nick on edge and enabling him to more thoroughly assess Tom Buchanan's personality.
"Claudius The God," by Robert Graves
(minor complications of geography)
"The occultist led them over three or four miles of rough, boggy country, until they reached the marsh proper. It stank, and the willo the wisp darted about it, and to reach the beginning of the secret track the Guards had to wade thigh-deep after their guide through a slimy pool full of leeches ...
(minor complication in environment requires innovation) 
"Each man had his shield slung across his back and a big chalk circle smudged on it.  This was to keep touch in the dark without shouting to each other... Aulus had observed that deer follow each other through dark forests guided by the gleam of the white fur patches on each other's rumps... "

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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