Michaeline: Wrestling with Conflict

I spent a lot of time this week not writing the second scene of my book.

You see, with the NaNo method, I just sit down, start writing, and trust that words will come. And they do, and it’s great for a first draft. But, I’m working on a second draft now, and I feel like the NaNo method is just too meandering. I know the characters I am working with, and know where the overall story is going. Even with that knowledge, I was terribly afraid of this unwritten scene. I had just finished a really good, solid scene that I’ve been working on for the past 18 months. I am venturing back into the crap territory of an early draft.

But venture I must, if I want to finish this before the decade ends. Here’s a blow-by-blow account of how I wrestled the basics of this scene to the ground, and got enough information to start writing.

The background: supernatural creatures from the depths of the earth show up at developer George Diaz’s pool party in scene one. Paranormal plumbers Perz Jones and her sister Demi are called in to check out the strange happenings. George shoots the leader of the supernatural party, against Perz’s advice. What happens in scene two?

Round One: Identify the scene, identify the combatants.

Scene: The living room of the Evans-Diaz home. Perz Jones vs. George Diaz

Ding-ding! Winner: me. Nice job!

Round Two: Identify the conflict.

Conflict: George wants to get rid of the “demons” and retrieve his ruined party . His overarching aim is to get an underground mall (Wundermall?) built to save the small town of Evanston. So, he needs to hide evidence of accidents.

Perz wants to find out why this thing is coming to George Diaz’s house, and prevent the creatures from showing up unannounced at other people’s houses. She believes quite strongly in nipping problems in the bud.

Ding-ding! Winner: chaos. This is too vague and doesn’t help me at all.

Intermission for a sudden thought: in the original story, Demi’s husband Don breaks the news of a cave accident that has riled up this collection of goblins, dwarves, orcs, imps, gnomes and one djini. What if George is the one to break this news?

Round Three: George and Perz want the same thing: to solve the problem, and stop the supernatural creatures from coming into people’s homes. But George wants to get rid of the demons quickly, and at any cost. Perz doesn’t want the entities to come back and bite them on the butt later.

Ding-ding! I think I’ve got something to work with now! I will need to make the conflict tighter, but I think I can make the scene turn on George being cagey about the accident but wanting the “demons” destroyed, and Perz wanting more information. George is being blocked because Perz won’t act to get rid of the creatures until she has the information she wants. Perz is blocked because George’s overall goal makes it necessary to hide the information. It may take three or four re-writes to get this in the place where I want it, but I have a direction to go. Winner: me. Watch out, round four!

There are probably as many ways to write a scene as there are writers to write them. More – you have to approach each scene according to the needs of the moment, and one approach simply won’t work for everything.

What’s the conflict in the scene you are working on today?

P.S. Conflict boxes are a more direct way to figure out what your problem is . . . but sometimes you need to circle a problem a little while before you can attack it directly.

6 thoughts on “Michaeline: Wrestling with Conflict

  1. I’m so glad you’re back working on The Djini and Ms Jones, Michaeline. I read the first draft of the pool party scene last year and I’m really looking forward to the revised version, plus Perz v George, yay!

    I’m rewriting (or not) a sequence of three scenes at a swanky charity auction. The third scene is a turning point, Rose v Sasha. Rose lost her first encounter with Sasha. She wins this one, thereby earning herself a whole heap of trouble in the future. I’m back to the drawing board/notebook today, because I’m not clear about the two scenes that run up to this one. In the first one, Rose meets Ian’s family; it’s Rose v Ma, Ian’s strong-willed mother. Rose’s reaction to Ma in this first scene drives her to take the action that infuriates Sasha in the third scene. I haven’t got the details right yet, but I’m close. I’m stuck on the middle scene, though. I’m pretty sure it’s Sasha v Ian but I haven’t figured out how to give it oomph and make it escalate rather than just linking scenes 1 and 3. Argh.

  2. I’m not really working on conflict per se, but I’m reworking my first scene (possibly creating another in its place?) to include some crunchy suggestions Kat had to ratchet up the tension.

    • Today must be the day for working on first scenes. I’m fine tuning the conflict in mine and making the escalation stronger (fingers crossed).

  3. Thanks for sharing your process with us. It sounds like the puzzle pieces have clicked into place for this scene. And George has a positive goal and motivation, even if his tactics are questionable, so he’s an antagonist who sees himself as the hero of his own story. Well done!

    • LOL, this is just the starting point. Before I had zero-zippo, and I wasn’t making any progress with writing. At least now, I’ve gotten about half of the scene written.

      BTW, this second scene is totally new — before, I had Perz and Demi go home without debriefing, and then they sat around the table and had a nice chat about the things they needed to do to find out more information . . . . Not really what characters should do. So, I don’t know if this is going to work — and as true first-draft writing, it really is crap. I stumble around not knowing what’s in the living room, and who the characters are that stuck around after the supernatural “invasion”. And since I just finished a scene I’ve been working with for months, it’s really hard to be that clumsy again. I hate it. But I have to do it.

      (-: I’ve got time to re-write it six times before February 1rst!

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