Time Distance Gravity These forces of nature are not malicious, they simply “are”, but their very existence can be a threat or obstacle to the protagonist achieving their ends, carrying out their desire, or fulfilling their quest. The ocean destroys the good wizard's ship. The mountains stand between the protagonist and their objective. Weather (rain, wind, snow, sleet, hail, sandstorm, etc.) cause the quest to fail.
Forces of Nature: The OriginSince the beginning of time, there have been obstacles that have stood in the way of mankind’s forward progress. Gravity makes large, solid objects heavy, so humans were forced to develop machines to counteract gravity. Time and age have worn away at even the strongest men, structures, and land formations. Storms, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and earthquakes have killed millions of people. Armies have to march around mountains, across deserts, through canyons, or find creative ways to cross oceans. People have to cross vast distances to find safe haven from threats, resources to gather, or shelter from dangers. There is nothing “evil” about these forces of nature, but the fact that they can oppose the protagonist’s desires or goals is what makes them very useful antagonists. The hero wants to save his princess in time? He just so happens to be across the city and has to race against the clock to defeat the evil wizard. – This example uses both time and distance as antagonists. The mighty dragon warrior has to march his armies across the desert and defeat the undead dragons in a battle to the death. – Distance and gravity (flying on a dragon’s back) are the antagonists. The sneaky thief has to climb into the high tower to steal the magical relic that will turn back the storm threatening to destroy the city. – Gravity again comes into play, with the added bonus of a natural disaster. Using these forces of nature can be an amazing way to increase the stakes of the novel, thereby ratcheting up the tension drastically!
In StoriesForces of nature play crucial roles in literally every novel, movie, and TV show ever:
- In Lord of the Rings, Frodo has to travel from The Shire to Mordor (distance) to destroy the One Ring. They also have to cross through the Mines of Moria (land mass) because the snow in the high passes (elements) is too heavy to get through.
- In Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives, the Highstorms and Everstorms (natural disasters) are some of the primary antagonists. The main character Kaladin often finds himself in jeopardy because he is one of the bridgemen hauling bridges to cross the fractured canyon-like Shattered Plains (distance and gravity).
- In TV’s Sherlock, the entire episode “The Great Game” is a race against the clock for Sherlock and Watson to solve riddles and find clues in a certain amount of time before people start dying.