Conflict Workshop By Margaret Midwood & Josie Caporetto
Conflict is not fighting!
An abusive hero is not heroic!
Before you begin to write the hero and heroine’s story you must work out strong and believable conflicts.
You need to know the reason the hero and heroine can’t be together on page one.
You need to know what is keeping them apart.
Conflict isn’t everything when it comes to storytelling, but I believe a strong conflict drives your story and avoids the sagging middle.
You can write the wittiest, creative sentences but without conflict there’s nothing to be concerned about, nothing to draw you in, nothing to keep you turning the page.
The moment your story idea takes off and you have a strong, explicit, external goal, you need to set out your hero and heroine’s conflicts both internal and external. Why they can’t have what they think they want.
It is irrelevant whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, because once you have a strong internal conflict the story will evolve. You start with a pivotal incident & thread back-story through engaging the read with your hero and heroine while they battle through their conflicts.
Strong, believable conflicts come from who and what the hero/heroine are.
You can discover this by thinking of all the ways these two people might clash, and that’s not arguing, it’s their differing views, personalities, internal beliefs, or by writing character biographies to discover their inner fears and insecurities.
Or you can write character biographies to discover their inner fears and insecurities. The reason they do what they do. The best conflicts are often between total opposites. Eg. The tart and the vicar, the thief and the cop, the developer and the conservationist.
Before you begin to write your story you must know why the characters can't instantly fall in love and be together on page one. The stronger the reasons they can't be together, no matter how powerful the attraction is the conflict and the more they have to change will strengthen the emotion.
EXTERNAL CONFLICT IS WHAT DRIVES THEM TOGETHER it relies on other characters or events outside of their relationship.
Their present conflicts push them together. External conflict is the here and now. What brought them to this place?
Eg death, inheritance, family, theft, property, money, storms, plane crash - only limited by your imagination.
INTERNAL CONFLICT IS WHAT PUSHES THEM APART it is what the hero and heroine believes about themselves - their weakness. This belief can be wrong but because they believe it, it makes them behave and react in certain ways and it’s why they do what they do whether it’s good bad or dangerous. It is what’s keeping them from their happily ever after.
Internal conflict can be their personal differences, e.g. religion, status in community, wealth, past life experiences. Conflicts can be social, class, education, outlook on life, attitude to life, values, beliefs, religion, behaviour, strengths, talents, character defects, fears, the jobs they chose, and what they will do to get what they want. The reasons for their choices.
While setting up their conflicts it is imperative you also have things they admire and like about each other, something internal that pulls them together for if they didn’t like anything or find some connection, what would drag them into wanting this person above all others. Make your conflicts strong and different. To discover this information about your hero/heroine you have to dig deep.
INTERNAL CONFLICT TAKES LONGER TO RESOLVE BECAUSE THE CHARACTERS HAVE TO GROW AND CHANGE.
Hero/heroine need to overcome their flaws, weaknesses, and fears. When you have resolved their internal conflicts they can live happily ever after.
By the end of the story the hero and heroine can make decisions and choices they could not have done at the beginning because love has changed them making them better people.
If your hero and heroine were the only characters in your story the internal conflict would still be there.
Strong, dramatic internal conflict is what makes us turn the page. It’s what keeps the hero and heroine from their happily ever after. It drives your story. Hero and heroine can want each other and the more they do the stronger the conflict needed.
If hero and heroine fall in love on the first page you have no story.
YOU NEED EMOTION ON EVERY PAGE!
Writing Exercises -
Write down your current hero/heroine’s conflict.
How can you strengthen them?
Make things worse?
Put them further apart?
If hero and heroine fall in love on the first page you have no story. Attraction draws them together, conflicts keep them apart.
The best way to find what works is to read thoroughly the line you want to be published in.
Pull the stories apart. Work out what drew you to that book? What kept you involved? Or didn’t keep you reading and caring? Search for the conflicts, for all the elements that make that story work.
I’d like to thank the following people for my inspiration…
Fiona Lowe’s website and her wonderful workshops http://www.fionalowe.com
Shelly Thack - He feels, She Feels
Men and Women…How to Tell Them Apart By George Saunders - is a great book for ideas on the way men think. Yeah I know most women don’t think they do but it’s just differently.