Kay: Creating Conflict in the Next Book

from moneycrashers.com

Now that I finished the book I’ve been working on (yay!), I’ve been casting around for my next project (eek!). I have a few ideas lined up—mostly centered in worlds I’ve already written—but I’ve been thinking about who my characters are and how I should develop their relationships.

I’m lousy at writing conflict, and conflict is crucial to any good story. Where should my hero and heroine converge? Where should they struggle? Over what, and how?

Continue reading

Michaeline: Part 3: Weddings Interruptus

I think that I have never read
A story as thrilling as a Reddit thread

Or in the words of the old cliché, truth is stranger than fiction. Over the past two weeks, I’ve talked about how a wedding can drive the action in a story for better or worse. Love, money, the desire to have one’s own way (a form of power) – and sometimes even elephants are included in the wedding, so it’s a ripe ground for conflict and trouble.

A young lady from the mid-1800s embraces a judge in a courthouse; at the foot of his bench, two lovers embrace, and there's a guitar on the floor, bedecked with ribbons.

Nothing like a courthouse wedding! Now with added flamenco guitar. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, let’s say that you are ready to write your own story. Of course, personal experience is the best source for good, truthful fiction. But sometimes you don’t have those sources. My husband and I were married in a town hall in early June to get my visa set up properly, then we had three different ceremonies/receptions in August. I don’t remember any particular drama, although I may have been oblivious at the time, and skillful at blocking the bad stuff out later. My sister’s wedding also went well. The only thing I remember is controlling my portions of delicious, delicious American food in order to fit into the dress she’d ordered for me. Otherwise, it was lovely colors, lovely flowers, and a very lovely bride. Great for a real-life wedding! But not very good fiction fodder.

However, the internet is full of wedding stories. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the term “Bridezilla” rose in popularity at the same time the Internet was growing quickly. First-person, third-person, tight and omniscient, all sorts of true-life stories were put on the internet to blow off some stress and gain a little cyber fame. Reddit, the site devoted to citizen journalism in all its amateur glory, is a gold mine.

So, here are a few ways from Reddit that weddings could be disrupted fictionally. (I take no responsibility for the truth or accuracy of Reddit’s reporting, or my reporting here. The point is to fictionalize for entertainment purposes.)

One fun way to distract during a wedding is through sounds. Have an ice cream truck drive by at the height of the ceremony. Maybe the bride (or groom) realizes they’d Continue reading

Elizabeth: You’re Wrong!

As I mentioned in last Wednesday’s post, work on my current manuscript that I am supposed to be buffing and polishing in preparation for pitching at RWA Nationals has been derailed by a new story idea that is refusing to patiently wait its turn in the pending idea file.

Part of the allure – other than the “fun of discovery” vs. the “hard work of wrestling a story into shape” – is that it combines two of my current passions:  story and politics.

The heroine, a reporter, wants to cover the new big, shiny exciting story, but instead gets sent to the middle of nowhere to cover a political campaign that she has no interest in.  She and the hero, the under-dog politician battling to unseat an entrenched incumbent, couldn’t be more different.  City vs. country.  Democrat vs. Republican.  Vegan vs. hunter/fisherman.  If I was writing a mystery, one of them would likely wind up as a chalk-outline.  Fortunately, this is romance, so there will be a happily-ever-after if I have to lock them in a room until they can reach common ground.  (Note to self:  find room to lock characters in.) Continue reading

Elizabeth: What do you stand for?

img_1219If you’ve been paying attention to American politics recently, you’ll have noticed that there are a lot of people taking a hard look at what they stand for, what they believe in, and what they are willing to do in support of those beliefs.

People who have never participated in a march have marched.  People who have never called their elected representatives have made calls.  People who may have thought of politics as something that just sort of happens have started to realize that it’s a participatory process.

All good things.

Deciding what you stand for has its challenges, especially if what you stand for is in opposition to what someone else believes.  Even if you believe the same thing as someone else, you may have different or possibly conflicting ideas about how those beliefs should be addressed.

So what does all this have to do with writing? Continue reading

Jilly: Hooked by the Olympics

Hooked by the OlympicsWhat have you been up to this week?

I got back from Scotland on Tuesday evening to a mountain of laundry and a couple of real life annoyances. Dealing with those took me until Thursday morning, and then the decks were clear for me to get back to my romantic fantasy WIP.

At least, that was the idea.

Elizabeth reported earlier this week that her Girls in the Basement had absconded and were presumed drinking Margaritas on a beach somewhere, leaving her to stare at a blank page. My Girls are here, but I can’t seem to get them under control. They spent ten days in Scotland spinning off idea after idea for my contemporary Gilded Lily series, which is exciting but doesn’t help with my long list of current story questions. Now they’re busy sparking off the Olympics, which is even less productive. Still, it’s a fascinating, once-every-four-years spectacle, so I’ve decided to go with the flow for one more day, until the end of the weekend.

The great thing about the Olympics is that it’s more than a showcase of world-class sports from the familiar to the mind-bogglingly esoteric. The event is built on human endeavor, triumph and disaster, which makes it a story masterclass. I’ve been thinking a lot about that. 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: 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