Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing Tip -- The basic conflict

We all know what conflicts are especially when it comes to characters. Sometimes the basic conflict in a story is a little different from the conflicts the characters face. We can use something like escaping an environment that smothers a person, or good vs evil. To develop a basic conflict in your story, you must give the protagonist or protagonists a chief motivating force. To me this is the why of the story. Why do they want to change their environment? What's wrong with it that makes them desire a different environment. There must be a tangible goal to reach. To me this is the what. Just what do they want. I've often gone through a rough draft of the story before I discover just what the goal is. To reach the final goal, there are often smaller goals to reach.

When writing the Warrior of Bast, Tira, the heroine, wants to go to Egypt. She is thinking archeologically. She realizes this is impossible for her at this time. Then she receives a chance to go, but not to the Egypt of the present, but the one of the past. Now her goal has shifted. Why would she want to go there? She must decide what she really wants and why she wants this particular goal. Even after she arrives there, the basic goal is muddy. She finally knows her goal is really wanting to belong and wanting someone to love and be loved by.

In the story the motivating force also changes as the character herself changes.


Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Janet!
At RWA national the presenters stressed that conflict is what drives your plot.

Taryn Kincaid said...

You might find this blog post from Lyn Cote on the FF&P blog of interest. She swears by Harlequin writer Kathy Jacobson's (Kathy Lloyd's) "conflict grid." I think I might have to test that out one of these days myself!