We have a crop of baby hummingbirds coming to our feeders right now, a summer crop. At the same time, we have an influx of yellow jackets who also like our hummingbird feeders. The sweet scent attracts them and they’re able to wiggle through the holes to the sugar water. Of course they can’t get back out, but in the meantime, the little villains drive off the hummers.
I haven’t been able to get a picture of the fights, but the yellow jackets win. The hummers have to wait till they have a clear shot, and now they don’t sit peacefully on the outer ring as they occasionally used to—when they aren’t driving off each other. They’re not big on sharing.
In the end, the insects drown, so you could say the hummers win. In this photo, you can see the deceased floating in the water. This is not the hummers’ favorite feeder, but you can’t see into the better ones (as in the first picture).
This conflict is a bit like my goals in fiction. I care about the hummers and want them to win, but the outcome is often in doubt. The yellow jackets win many of the battles, and I want to intervene for the hungry babies. Instead I have to wait and see who wins this time.
I’d prefer a more clear-cut victory for my characters, but the element of real doubt creates suspense. This only works if you care about the characters though. But how to create such people? That’s another blog.
How important is it for you to like or care about the characters before you can enjoy a story? If you don't care, are you still drawn in to anxiously await the final outcome?