SWOT Analysis in Fiction

Writing fiction often brings the writer to a crossroads:  Should I take my character(s) down this road or that?  Will they decide this or that, and what will the consequences of either choice or decision be?  Which would fit best into my plot?  All of these questions can be answered by applying a corporate business tool called the SWOT analysis chart.  I have this baby hung on a magnet strip near my desk, along with other prompts such as the sensory image, and I apply it frequently.  Just last week I faced a crossroads:  Would A) my character run away, or would B) another character (or C) take her away?  On the latter question, I had another two options (thus, B & C); I needed the SWOT.

SWOT Analysis Chart, Watermark

This image shows you the variables of each option; internal vs. external influences or attributes of a situation or choice; helpful vs. harmful in reaching the character’s goals, or the consequences of the choices laid before you.  What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of each path at your character’s feet?

I’ll give you the example of my thought process as I applied it to my historical novel’s fictional situation:  If my character ran away (A) , the strength would be that she would be taking her destiny into her own hands – it’s what you want your main character to do; the threat would be that such an action might raise assumptions that would damage her reputation (was she pregnant?).  The opportunity of doing things in her own timing was overshadowed by the weakness of practicalities:  How would she, without support, get from her family’s estate to Portsmouth, at least a good half-day’s journey by carriage?  If the “B” character (her mother) took her to Portsmouth, the main character would be passive in the decision – the action would happen to her rather than her controlling or causing it.  The opportunity of solving the weakness of “A” by giving her a ride to Portsmouth was a strong incentive, but would raise a bigger threat in that it might seem like the mother was being just as manipulative as the father, forcing the main character into making a choice to suit the mother, which wasn’t the case.  If “C”, her future husband, came to sweep her away from the problems at home, again it would seem that the main female character wasn’t strong on her own two feet, or was too pliable and passive.

I took each scenario through the SWOT rigorously, and in the end I decided – well, when the book comes out next year, you can find out for yourself!

Applying such tools helps you focus your energies on finding solutions, rather than finding yourself stuck in writer’s block.


Filed under Articles, Images, Nuts & Bolts, Plot Thots & Profiles, Research, Writing Exercise

6 responses to “SWOT Analysis in Fiction

  1. Carol Ferenc

    I haven’t yet ventured into writing fiction but with helpful tools like this, I may give it a try. (I’ve been toying with the idea lately.) Thanks for explaining how to deal with a crossroads situation!

  2. You’re very welcome! You might also want to take a look through my past posts – I’ve given quite a few helpful tips like this one over the past 2 years I’ve had this blog up and running.
    I hope they inspire you to write, whatever form you decide to express yourself in! 🙂

  3. Carol Ferenc

    Thanks ~ I’ll check it out!

  4. Hi Trinity.
    I believe that the SWOT Matrix is a valuable tool… Very pertinent when it comes to the writing process as you have shown through the examples…
    At the end, writing is also a rigorous process, involving choices among creative alternatives ..
    Thanks for sharing… Sending you all my best wishes!. Aquileana 😀

  5. Thank you for the encouragement, and for stopping by and following!
    The SWOT is very helpful – as I said, I use it frequently! And as you said, writing is a rigorous process; the more tools we have to accomplish it efficiently and creatively, the better. 🙂

  6. Pingback: 5 Life Hacks for Productivity | Stephanie Huesler

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