Elizabeth: Conflict Conundrum

ConflictWe’ve talked about conflict a number of times here on the blog including Jilly’s post here, my Back to Basics post here,  and Justine’s recent Fiction Fundamentals posts here and here.

“Let’s be clear about one thing: conflict must be in each scene in your book. Every. Single. One.”  ~ Justine

Jenny Crusie also has a great set of posts all about conflict on her Writing/Romance blog, full of details and examples.  With all of these discussions, along with our McDaniel class notes and presentations, I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the role conflict plays in building a strong, engaging story.

Conflict is a specific struggle between two people, the escalating action of which moves the story forward.” ~ Jenny Crusie

But . . . Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 3: Conflict (2nd Installment)

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Conflict? Mmm…perhaps. (Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin in “The Princess Bride” (c) 1987 Act III Communications)

Welcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. In Part 1, I discussed character goals. In Part 2, I covered a character’s Motivation…the “why” of what they want to do in your story. Last time, in the first of a two-parter, I talked about the Big Enchilada that ties it all together and makes for a good read: Conflict.

This week, I’m delving a bit deeper. I’ll discuss scene- vs. story-level conflict, the difference between conflict and trouble, and those pesky “misunderstandings.”

Scene-Level (or “Mini”) Conflict

Let’s be clear about one thing: conflict must be in each scene in your book. Every. Single. One. However, that doesn’t mean the conflict had to be between your protag and antag relative to their goals, nor does it have to be massive, big-stakes stuff. It can be smaller. Call it mini-conflict, or that which does not directly affect your character’s goals. Said another way:

The conflict in each scene doesn’t have to be directly related to the protag or antag’s stated goal.

Here’s why: Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 2: Character Motivation

motivationLast time in Part 1 of Fiction Fundamentals I discussed a character’s Goal…the “what” of what they want to do in your story.

This installment is about your character’s motivation: the “why.”

Let’s look back at a few goals from books/movies I discussed last time:

  • She wants to go to the ball (Cinderella)
  • He wants to defeat Voldemort (Harry Potter)
  • She wants to return home (The Wizard of Oz)
  • He wants to return to earth after being stranded on Mars (The Martian)
  • She wants to quit being a prostitute (Pretty Woman)

For each of these, we want to know why. Why does Harry Potter want to defeat Voldemort? Why does Dorothy want to return home? Why does Vivian want to quit being a prostitute?

Their motivation is why. It gives the reader (or viewer) the reason for their goal. It helps us understand the importance and urgency and determination behind the goal. A good way to figure out the motivation is Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals Part 1: Goals

Welcome to the first of at least a 10-part series on Fiction Fundamentals (referred to a week ago as Back to Basics, but Elizabeth has already trademarked that!). Over the next several weeks, I and a few guests will be discussing things new writers should consider when writing a novel. While having a great idea is certainly top on the list, there are many other topics writers should work on nailing down to make their novel strong….and salable.

goals arrowThis week’s topic: Goals (not yours…your character’s)

If you’ve attended any writing workshops at all, it’s likely you’ve heard many people talk about your character’s goals. They need to be good. They need to be strong. But how do you know if they are?

Your character’s goal is the very essence of their part of the story. It is why they’re part of it. Each of your major characters (protag, antag, love interest — which may sometimes be one in the same) should have a goal. There are two types of goals to create for your characters: Continue reading

Nancy: April Recap – All Is Not Lost

goals for writing conferences, justine covington, eight ladies writing, setting goals, SMART goals, S.M.A.R.T.

If you read my first post of 2015, you know I promised monthly writing status reports. And if you’re very astute (and I know our blog readers are!), you might have noticed I didn’t give my April status report this past Monday, when it was ‘due’, as I continue my series on series. So today, I thought I’d drop in and hijack the post share the pain and progress that made up my writing life in April.

As I wrote in my March recap, March was a writing bust for me. I wrote at a snail’s pace, and many of the words I did get on the page didn’t work for my stories. Blame the long, frigid, snowmageddon winter, or story burnout from unrealistic expectations, or poor attention span, or all of the above – regardless of the cause, the result was so bad that I had to dub April the month of the Phoenix in the hopes I’d rise from the ashes of crap writing I’d done in March.

So, about that Phoenix… Continue reading

Jilly: Girls, Guys and Gainsaid Goals

Guys, Girls and Gainsaid GoalsWe know that a character with a negative goal usually makes for a boring read. What about a character with a strong, positive goal that’s clearly destined to fail?

When I curl up on the sofa with a romance novel, two things are a given (and if not delivered there will be major Book Sulk). One is that the relationship between the hero and heroine will be front and center. Their love story will provide the spine of the book and all the major turning points; all subplots will feed this central story in some way. The other cast-iron guarantee is that no matter how dark matters become, everything will turn out beautifully in the end. Our Girl and Our Guy will make a commitment to one another and will live happily ever after.

I expect that Our Girl and Our Guy will both have a goal, and a motivation that drives them tirelessly towards that goal. The story will get its juice from the clash of those goals, which must be so important to them that neither can give up, so they push and challenge and change each other in an escalating battle that most likely ends with a victory for one and a psychic death and reinvention for the other.

Which brings me to my question.

If Our Girl has a goal that’s incompatible with her attraction to Our Guy, then no matter how credible that goal is, we kind-of-sort-of know that by the end of the story she’s not going to get it (or want it). Does that detract from the story? And if not, Continue reading

Jilly: Story Essential – A Proactive Heroine

A Proactive ProtagonistI’m finally feeling happy with my heroine, Rose, which is a huge relief. She’s the most important person in my book (it’s her story) and she’s been trouble right from the start. In the early days it was my fault – I wrapped her up in cotton wool when I should have put her through hell – but even when I’d fixed that she still wasn’t quite right. Now, thanks to Michaeline and Kay, she’s getting close to where I want her to be.

Rose hasn’t changed much since I first imagined her. She’s small, about five feet tall, 25 years old, with pale skin, cropped, spiky, white-blonde hair and gray eyes, and she lives in jeans, t-shirts and Dr Marten boots. If it moves she’ll paint it, draw it, or embroider it, and she’s been that way since she was a child. She takes after her father and doesn’t gel with her mother and stepfather – they love her but want her to grow up and conform. The story starts Continue reading

Nancy: What a Girl Wants – Character Goals

Woman With a Plan

One of things we learned in the McDaniel program was that many of us, to one extent or another, struggle with some of the same writing issues. One of the earliest elements of our manuscripts we addressed was identifying our protagonists’ goals. While a few of our classmates had chosen concrete, positive, workable goals, many of us were in a very different boat. It was leaky boat with a broken paddle. We agonized and strategized and each of us found (or continue to search for) our own paths to creating strong goals for our characters.

In my WIP, I didn’t just have a negative goal; I had three. Continue reading