I like to think of what happens to characters in good novels and stories as knots --- things keep knotting up. And by the end of the story --- readers see an unknotting of sorts. Not what they expect, not the easy answers you get on T.V., not wash and wear philosophies but a reproduction of believable emotional experiences. ~ Terry McMillan
This week we’re learning the technique of utilizing conflict in a story. I think the above writer, Terry McMillan, has said it much better. It’s like tying your words in knots and placing the knots in the hands of your readers and letting them slowly do the unraveling of sorts until they walk away with an emotional experience for having read your words.
Conflict in a story? Sure you can call it that, but I like the knot theory much better. Conflict sounds so aggressive and can be. Do we want to write an aggressive scene or a scene that has your stomach in knots as you turn page after page? I’m leaning towards the knots, myself.
For conflict to be effectual, you need the inverted check mark is what I’ve been taught. You need to slowly build up the scene, place a few knots in the rope, or tension, as the scene grows and mounts the highest mountain.
Instead of having your character jump off the other side of the mountain, you need to bring your reader down slowly as if releasing the pressure out of a tire. It doesn’t deflate immediately; it slowly comes to a flat. But wait a second now, you don’t want your ending to be flat, you want vibrant life to be in the ending, so don’t deflate your tire completely. Give your reader an emotional release.
This is why I like the knot theory more than I appreciate the conflict. Sure you can give the reader an enormous amount of conflict but giving them knots is like handing them a fully inflated tire, and releasing the pressure slowly so that your reader is gripping their stomach in anticipation, the knot has been built and you’re slowly releasing them. By not allowing the tire to go completely flat you’re saving room for the completion of the heartache in the tale, the happily ever after, so to speak.
All in all your reader is what counts. If you can tug at THEIR heartstrings, bind them up in knots, and give them a welcomed conclusion by untying the knots, I think you’ve achieved your goal in your story.
Chapter by chapter should have elevated the heart rate so that they continue reading each and every word, dangling by a thread; they are waiting for you, the writer, to make them feel as though their visit to your world of words was worth every thread.
Giving them conflict, you might be giving them aggression. Giving them knots, you’re filling your work with the drama that carries the story. Remember that as you’re building your characters and story. Drama is GOOD; it is a writer’s best friend!