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Conflict Series Refresher

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What’s a story without good conflict? Well, not much of a story at all! So here’s a little refresher on putting some conflict into our stories.

Conflict (October 2006)
It’s Good to Be Conflicted

    “…When we write our middles, we want to take our characters off the safe path. We want to write them into corners we’re not sure they’ll be able to get out of—and then let them figure out how to do it. We cannot let them walk away from conflict. …”

Conflict: Thematic vs. Actual

    “…Thematic conflict is the overall theme of the story. For example, in Chariots of Fire there are the conflicts of Man vs. Man (the two racers against each other) and Man vs. Society (the Jewish character against the Protestant society). In Raiders, we see Man vs. Man (Indiana Jones vs. the Nazis). In Castaway it is Man vs. Nature, which is also seen in environmental disaster movies such as Earthquake or Firestorm. In 2001 it is Man vs. Machine (remember H.A.L.?). Frankenstein, The Matrix, and Terminator are all prime examples of Man vs. Technology. …”

Conflict: Desires and Goals

    “…Think about The Wizard of Oz. The whole story, once she arrives in Oz, is Dorothy’s desire to go home to Kansas. If she followed the yellow brick road all the way to the Emerald City with no one to stop her—even if she did meet interesting folks along the way—it would not be a very interesting story (nor take very long to tell!). But along her journey she meets with one conflict after another brought upon her by her nemesis, the Wicked Witch of the West. But the witch wasn’t thwarting her just to thwart her. She had a desire as well: to retrieve the magical ruby slippers which were on Dorothy’s feet and held the key for Dorothy’s return home. …”

Conflict: Move That Bus!

    “…Conflict keeps our readers reading out of anticipation. If their anticipation is not rewarded with the relief of a resolution, that anticipation will turn into annoyance and disappointment. It’s why TV shows end their season with a cliffhanger—the anticipation from the conflict the characters are in the middle of when the show ends in May is what gets the viewers back in September—for the payoff. When you give your characters an easy out, when you resolve a major conflict off stage, or when you do not resolve a conflict, your readers lose trust in you as a writer. …”

Other posts about Conflict:
Torture Can Be So Fun!

    “…I have just written what is probably my favorite scene ever! It’s one that I visualized and planned out nearly two years ago when I started writing Ransome’s Honor. It’s the scene that I have been writing toward since then as I’ve crafted this story into an actualized manuscript. It’s the second-to-last chapter of the novel and does what I want the almost-last chapter of every book I write—as well as every book I read—to do . . . seem to be bringing everything to a resolution, then rip the carpet out from underneath the characters. …”

(Narrative) Debt and Simple vs. Compound Interest

    “…When we write, every time we introduce a question or a conflict to the story, we are incurring what’s known as narrative debt—in other words, we are building up toward the payoff at the end in the climax, where all of the reader’s expectations will be (or should be) paid in full. When we incur this debt, we have two choices when it comes to the “interest” that goes along with it: simple or compound. …”
One Comment
  1. Thursday, February 19, 2009 10:02 am

    I have a lot to learn, your site will be great! I would live to fit by 40 too 🙂

    THanks, I bookmarked your blog
    Christa Sterken


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