Thursday, March 05, 2009
In last nights writer’s chat we discussed the element of conflict in writing a story. The exercise calls for a scene of conflict. The questions and answers were quite enlightening.
The students asked, "What is conflict?"
Conflict is the struggle between right and wrong. It can be the protagonist, the lead character, fighting off the antagonist, the opposing force to be reckoned with, at every chapter. Or it can be something as simple as the main character having doubts about his/her life’s decisions.
Maybe your character wonders if having a baby at 16 was the right thing to do. Should she have gotten an abortion and made her life easier to live without having to care for a child at such a young age? This is a dramatic conflict that will play out in the sub-conscious of your reader.
This inner struggle with making a decision can be considered a conflict within a story. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a knock down drag out fist fight, or a gunfight while cars are chasing behind you. It is the conscious debate.
Another question arose as to the conflict resolving. In my opinion, you don’t want the conflict resolved right away. You want your reader to go along on the ride and as they place themselves in your character’s position, they are then feeling the same struggles as your character. Let the reader fantasize in his mind what he would do in the given situation. As he does this he is now enthralled with your character, your words, and continues to read to see this conflict resolved.
If you find resolution for your character too early, the reader has no reason to continue reading.
Now remember, a conflict is not a crisis. A crisis is a bad hair day or an overturned vehicle blocking your way to the hospital. A crisis is usually resolved in the chapter or two that you’re writing, while a conflict will be the basic element of your words throughout the story. You’re not going to TELL the reader, you are going to very descriptively SHOW them the tale. Have them live it all over again and walk away breathless.
Give us a hero that we can watch through sequel after sequel. The one book that comes to mind (no, not the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter; although they are good examples too) but the Odd Thomas series.
Odd was set to be a hero from book one. He wants to save the world through crisis after crisis. With each book the conflict was ever present and only in the fourth book do we see signs of possible resolution. I’m sending a hint out to Dean Koontz, “Odd Thomas is not over YET!”
Just like in LOTR, we see the crisis, we know it so well, the struggle of doing what is right and not liking the way we have to go about it, but then by book three Tolkien gives us a resolution.
Can you see the difference in conflict and crisis? If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask. NOT asking is what will keep you in your struggle with writing.
Conflict and crisis is within, let’s get it out onto paper!