Hi everyone, I’m taking a much-needed post-conference-and-contest break with the family this week, so Jeanne Estridge has graciously agreed to take over today’s post. Thank you Jeanne! I’ll be back next week. –Justine
I recently started teaching a class on Plot and Structure at Words Worth Writing. The first week dealt with the basics:
- Who is your protagonist? What is her goal?
- Who is your antagonist? What is his goal?
How do their goals set them at odds with each other? How do the actions each takes in pursuit of her goal block the other from obtaining hers?
As an example, I used a movie, The Wizard of Oz.
- Protagonist: Dorothy Gale
- Goal: To get back to Kansas
- Antagonist: The Wicked Witch of the West
- Goal: To get her sister’s ruby slippers back.
On the surface, these goals may not appear to be mutually exclusive, but if you dig deeper, they are. The Witch knows she’ll never get the slippers if Dorothy returns to Kansas with them on her feet. And Dorothy quickly realizes the slippers are all that stand between her and death-by-witch.
At McDaniel, Jenny had us create conflict boxes for our novels. If you’re a regular reader of Jenny’s Argh blog, you may already be familiar with conflict boxes. They help writers line up the actions of the protagonist and antagonist so that they block each other, creating that nice crunchy conflict that draws your reader forward.
For my class, we did a three-action box:
You can see that for each move Dorothy makes, the Witch makes a counter-move, right up until the moment she melts.
As I start over on my work-in-progress, I’m keeping in mind that the actions my protagonist and her antagonist take need to counter each other in just this way.
How about you? Have you ever tried using a conflict box?