Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How to Make Conflict the Engine That Drives Your Story

There are two primary types of conflict. External and Internal.

External conflict pushes characters together
Internal conflict pushes characters apart.

Let's start the story. We open the cover to the first page and meet MC (main character). In the first page or so, something terrible happens to MC. We call this the inciting incident. This is NOT a conflict. This is the curtain that opens the reader to the story where the conflict takes place.

Once upon a time everything went well for MC, and then the inciting incident happened. Now MC has been tossed into a horrible EXTERNAL conflict. 

Inciting incident: The house is on fire.
EXTERNAL Conflict: MC must wake up, find her way out of the house. She can't see. She is groggy. She can't breathe.

All of the conflicts listed above are dramatic, powerful, imposing on what MC once could do but struggles with at this moment. 
*She never had trouble waking up before. 
*She'd always known the way out of the house. 
*She could see fine before going to bed last night. 
*She never had problems being alert in the past
*She never thought about needing to breathe. It was second nature.

The house fire is the opening to this scene, perhaps the novel. The impact on MC's life forevermore will be powerful. At the most unexpected moment, a memory from the fire and the external conflicts could alter a dream, a conversation, driving, a meal (burnt toast), and etc. This does not go away. It and other external conflicts will become the engine that drives the story to the last page.

What we didn't know in MC's once upon a time was her INTERNAL conflict. She'd worked so hard to bury it--until the day of the fire. Now it has oozed out of her being. It shows on her face, is heard in her words and the tone, is prevalent in her body language and choices. 

It's true!! No matter how hard she'd tried, she'd never been accepted by the popular kids at school. She looked in the mirror every morning, convinced her clothes, hair, and makeup would fit in--but when she saw those kids, the flick of their eyes, and the twist of their heads to keep from seeing her ... confirmed she'd failed again.

INTERNAL Conflict: Poor MC. Her Dad let her know--years ago--that she was a failure. No matter what she did, it was wrong in his eyes and he felt the importance of communicating it with her. Most importantly, when MC managed to succeed, Dad felt it his duty to keep her from having a "big head." Long after his untimely death his harsh comments plagued when she became convinced she could have saved the house or got out of the house before emergency crew's lives were put on the line for her. Yeah. This was her fault. Dad was right.

This internal conflict ebbs and flows inside MC depending on what happens in a given moment. She needs help to overcome or at least cope, and even with the helper, she will occasionally backslide. In the end though, MC will know this helper is dependable and present.

Even though the conflicts will pop to the surface, MC and the one who has helped her will live happily ever after.

The end ;)

*Research for today's post came from Elizabeth Mazer's class at Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference. 
AND FROM Amy Leigh Simpson (one of our Alley Cats) soon to be released: From Winter's Ashes

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Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. Such adventures can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice blog, thank you for sharing I think She appeared in the reflect every morning, satisfied her clothes, hair, and make-up could fit in--however whilst she saw those children, the flick of their eyes, and the twist of their heads to keep from seeing her. My name is Nagraj I'm working at Outdoor advertising ad companies in Delhi confirmed she'd failed again,long after his premature demise his harsh remarks plagued when she became satisfied she may want to have stored the house or were given out of the residence earlier than emergency group's lives had been placed on the road for her.