Elizabeth: After the Inciting Incident

Stories Yet To Be WrittenHas it only been a week?  Feels like a life-time has flashed by since my last Wednesday post.

Nancy’s Writing is our Superpower post on Monday, with her message about using story to help people make sense of the world around them got me looking at real life from a storytelling perspective, which led me to thoughts about how people react to conflict.

If the events of the past few weeks were something we were reading in a story, then last Tuesday would have been that inciting incident or initial conflict that blasted our protagonists out of their stable-state existence on Monday and drop kicked them into a whole new world on Wednesday.   Like “innocent, optimistic, naïve Nancy of November 7”, those protagonists can’t go back to the people they were before; they must now figure out what to do in what is their new reality.  They can refuse to change, but they can’t un-change the world around them.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  ~ Heraclitus

So, if this were just a story, once the shock and blaming were over, what would our protagonists do next? Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 3: Conflict (First Installment)

conflict wordWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. In Part 1, I discussed character goals. Last time, in Part 2, I covered a character’s Motivation…the “why” of what they want to do in your story.

This installment (the first of two) is about the Big Enchilada that ties it all together and makes for a good read: Conflict.

Before getting into the meat of this, let’s set some expectations about conflict:

  1. Conflict is necessary in commercial fiction. Period. No conflict? No story. People don’t want to read about characters who get what they want with no issues or impediments. They want to see characters suffer and earn their rewards.
  2. Conflict is a struggle to reach a goal and should have the reader wondering whether or not the character will achieve it.
  3. Conflict is bad things happening to good and bad
  4. Conflict must be clear, but not overwhelming. It can be too big/too much, drowning your reader in seemingly insurmountable problems.
  5. Conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be one person pitted against another. Sometimes the conflict is circumstances.

Debra Dixon, in “GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict,” makes it very clear:

“If conflict makes you uncomfortable or you have difficulty wrecking the lives of your characters, you need to consider another line of work. In commercial fiction you need strife, tension, dissension, and opposition. If you omit these elements, you won’t be able to sustain the reader’s attention. Even in romance novels – known for their happy endings, sufficient conflict must exist to make the reader doubt the happily-ever-after.”

The net-net? Continue reading

Justine: That ‘Ol Conflict Thing Again

Okay, I will admit that Christmas vacation and having the kids home from school totally screws up my sense of what day it is and I thought today was Monday. Obviously not. Since I don’t usually plan my blog posts ahead and I doubt I could come up with something original this morning with two kids running around, a husband who’s home, and two parents (mine!) who I need to get to the airport in about 30 minutes, I’m going to repost something from last year’s series of craft-focused posts, New Year, New Writer. Today’s topic is my old nemesis (and the nemesis of a couple of the other Eight Ladies):

Conflict.

It’s relevant to me as I start thinking beyond Three Proposals to the next book(s) I want to work on.

Happy reading and I promise to have my act together next week (after all, the kids go back to school next Tuesday!). Continue reading