Wednesday, December 07, 2011

For Writers - Conflict!

The tip this week is an answer to a workshop attendee's question:

Q - My critique group said I don't have enough conflict in my story. How do you know when your story has "enough conflict"?

A - Conflict is what drives your plot. "Enough conflict" is whatever's needed to move your story along (and to keep your readers engaged.)

Here are some things to consider:

What does your hero need to achieve/obtain?
What's keeping her from getting/doing it?
What is at stake?

If you like a clear visual of how this plays out, Jenny Crusie uses a 'conflict box' (with thanks to Michael Hauge) to craft scenes. The box looks like this: Notice how the protagonist's goal is the thing that stands in the way of the antagonist achieving what he needs, and the antagonist's goal stands in the way of the protagonist getting what she needs. Their goals/actions are in direct conflict with the other. In each scene, one or the other may prevail, or both of them could fail. The result is what propels us to the next step of the story.

Note that the antagonist's goal could directly oppose the protagonist's goal (The warden wants to keep Andy Dufresne in prison, and Andy Dufresne wants to get out of prison), hence causing the conflict, or the conflict could arise from each of them fighting for the same goal (The Nazis want the Ark, and so does Indiana Jones).

Also note that the antagonist in your conflict box doesn't necessarily have to be a bad guy. It could be the hero's own shortfalls or doubts. Or it could be a friend/ally whose actions stand in the way of the hero reaching her goal. The point is that there should be something the characters have to overcome/learn/achieve in each scene. It should matter to the outcome of the story. Otherwise, so what? Who cares? "Enough conflict" answers those questions and keeps your readers engaged in the story.

This week's links:

Rhetorical Devices (Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing) Fun.

Overlooked Author Skill: Copywriting (Writer Unboxed) And how it can help you.

How to Get Published (Rachelle Gardner) The definitive post with lots of links.

Curing the Someday Syndrome (Julie Musil) Excellent for procrastinators like me.

90 Top Secrets of Best-Selling Writers (Writers' Digest)

41 Ways to Keep Readers Turning the Page (Ripping Ozzie Reads)

12 Step Cure for Writer's Block (Creative Penn)

10 Writing Mistakes (Broca)

5 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Writing Right Now (Writing Tips)

4 Steps for Organizing Plot Ideas into a Novel (Writers in the Storm)

3 Ways to Work Through a Difficult First Draft (Write it Sideways) Switch it up.

Embracing the Scary Project (Mary Cole Moore) "Bravery on Demand"

Why Writers Must Read (Writability)

Dreamers vs. Goalers - Writers Need to be Both (Write it Sideways)

Tension (Magical Words) Pumping it up

One Good Reason to Let Go of That Manuscript (PubRants) Awww. Congrats, Mary.

Writing Better Descriptions (Time to Write)

The Important All-is-Lost Moment (Fiction Groupie)

Fresh Ways to Look at Your Crappy Writing (Writer Unboxed) LOL

Believability or Bust (Query Tracker)

Do You Work Better on a Deadline? (Nathan Bransford)

Show me the Butterflies (Face the Page) Showing vs telling. Nice.

No Guilt, No Excuses (Nephele Tempest) Make the time. Write.

Things Writers Can Learn from LIAR'S MOON (Cheryl Klein) Plus a giveaway

Making Time to Write (Nephele Tempest) Not too late to make the commitment!

Now go. Write!