Posts Tagged ‘conflict lock’

How We Write: Central Conflict

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Without conflict, your story has no forward momentum. Your characters have no motivation to act. There’s no goal they can’t achieve. So, in commercial fiction at least, there’s no reader engagement, no matter how well what you’ve written is, well, written. For lack of a better analogy, you need combustion that will lead the reader to expect some future explosion that’ll keep them on the hook through the rest of the wonderful things you plan to do.


And I’m not just talking about suspense plots.In addition to writing (and now editing) romantic suspense as well as crafting sci-fi/fantasies that are full-on thrillers, I also write home and family dramas (straight contemporary romance) where the same level of escalating conflict and tension must still exist, in order for the reader to care enough to turn the page.

Conflict is how readers identify with your characters. It’s how the story transports the reader through a purely fictional journey. How deeply do the dilemmas you put the protagonist through resonate? How carefully do you craft the internal motivation and goals and tension the character must resolve, and are there external factors (anchors and stumbling blocks) that drive that person to do and behave and learn and grow and fail and, ultimately, succeed?

Conflict IS NOT petty arguments and bickering between the leads. (more…)

How We Write: Our Secret–Plot, Revise, Plot, Revise…

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The REAL secret to writing best selling novels… That’s what Jenni and I are talking about on How We Write. And what we’re saying is, THERE IS NO SHORT CUT. Eh-hem. Sorry, didn’t realize I was yelling.You might have noticed by now that this sort of thing torks me a bit. Folks who give/sell sure-fired advice, keys to the kingdom, THE WAY to your published Eden. They don’t often work. They tend to demotivate over time, not lead us closer to our overall objective–success.

success failure

Too often once you follow these ten easy steps, you realize there’s nothing of substance on the other side. And the guru you’ve gotten the list from has mysteriously moved on to giving advice like “how to be the most popular tweeter on the planet,” and you begin to realize that this person’s objective is to give advice. Because THAT’S what he/she thinks will make them a best selling author. God forbid that the person giving advice about writing personally follow through on any of what he/she’s saying and get back to writing novels themselves.

I exaggerate. There’s some great advice out there, and you should soak it all in. But always remember that this is work. This isn’t a race. And you can’t force your way into being “successful” at it by following a set of rules that promises to be the answer to all your problems.

We’re not selling quick and easy in HoWW. We’re talking about our processes (because Jenni’s is different than mine), and how you need to discover your own. We spent a month exploring what character means to a real, in-progress novel. March has been about plotting and structure, and Jenni wraps up the discussion by touching once more on narrative structure, and going just a little deeper than before. But she’s also ranting, like me ;o) Because the point we try to make in each post is that narrative structure and conflict lock and character plotting and so forth are just frameworks in which your story needs to work. They’re NOT your story, and too many people will tell you differently, and that gets us cranky.

Your story is what happens on the page and in the reader’s mind, once the list of things that makes a good story, mechanically, are taken care of. (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: Conflict Box–Failing and Fixing

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Jenni made one thing clear about Conflict Lock last week: the conflict box seems simple enough, but when you try to chart conflict without motivation, which is essential to drill to the core of what drives your external story, things can get tricky. Lets get right to some examples to illustrate what we mean (review  our posts from last week again here and here  if you need to catch up), then I’ll wrap things up at the end of the post and get back to talking about what’s MOST important…character ;o)

My first pass at the conflict box for my WIP was a fail:

conflict box mine fail

Pretty good, right?

But notice the amount of yadda yadda. Never a good sign in a chart that’s supposed to be very simple. (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: External Conflict–Lock and Load

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Jenni’s going to explain the Conflict Box over on her blog today. HoWW is all about plot this month, and it’s time to get serious about the external conflict that drives story and our critiques. And unless you lock and load your protagonist’s central goal and what stops him/her from achieving that goal, your plot won’t believably propel the protagonist or the reader through the story.

lock and load

You can tell from Jenni’s and my last two posts, that plot isn’t my drafting happy place. Character is. But, as I’ll be teaching once again this weekend with the Central New York Romance Writers Mini-Con, character IS plot. Your two lead characters (the protagonist and antagonist) must have external goals that are in conflict with each other, in every scene/chapter/act of the story, or you’re not crafting characters that will drive each other to grow and change on the page. And, the part I like best, those external goals and conflicts must derive from who these people are as characters BEFORE you create the on-the-page situations and obstacles that get in the characters way.

A hard and fast rule: the protagonist’s goal must drive the antagonist’s conflict in your story, and vice versa. Think of it in revers–if the antagonist of your novel isn’t complicating your protagonist’s race to achieve his goal, you don’t have much of a story, right? No matter how beautifully drawn your characters are, you won’t have the core external conflict that will keep a reader turning pages to see what happens next. (more…)