L.E. Kokko's Tales from a disturbed mind

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Conflict

Posted by LEKokko on February 12, 2017 at 10:10 AM

Chapter 1 Defining Conflict

There are two kinds of conflict: internal and external. I think these are self-explanatory as to what they are.

So, what is Conflict?

Conflict is anything that hinders the hero or protagonist from obtaining his/her goals. No conflict = No story. To have a conflict, there must be a clear goal. We are often shown characters before conflict arises, this makes us care for them. In order for conflict to matter, we have to care.

Conflict is relative.

What is a conflict for one character may not be for another? To have a conflict, the character must have a believable goal. The goal must fit into one of three categories:

• Possession of something

• Relief from something

• Revenge for something

The goal must be specific and simple enough to be stated in a single sentence. We must throw obstacles in our character’s way. It can be difficult to do this, we tend to want to help our characters. But if they do not face problems, they cannot grow. In order for the reader to root for the protagonist, they have to earn their happy ending.

The different characters should face different conflicts. But in every case, they must be put into a position where they cannot retreat back to their normal life. Each obstacle should build more empathy for the character. Each problem should make sense, and still keep the protagonist moving toward his goal.

Conflict is intolerable.

Conflicts should be such that the character cannot just ignore them, he must be forced to act.

Conflict is not delayed.

We may use incidences that frustrate our character to make a situation more real. But these are not conflicts. Examples of incidences are:

• The protagonist cannot find an object or person

• Falls into mud

• Can’t find their keys

• Misses a needed ride

• Arrive after an event

Conflict is not anger, bickering, or foot stomping.

The key here is the argument and bickering must stem from believable motivation. If not the character will be shallow (okay for the antagonist but the protagonist).

Conflict is not the characters fighting with each other. It’s them fighting with themselves.

Disagreements stem from misunderstandings. Adults can usually resolve these by discussion. Conflict must be deeper than that. Now a misunderstanding can flower into something more. When a character is angry, it is usually with themselves or an unresolved issue – dig deeper.

When a character is forced to change some response foreign to his nature, there in internal conflict. If he knows he must act one way, but his instincts tell him differently, you create a three-dimensional character.

The more the conflict is built into your character, the easier the story will be to write. Conflict should be based on the character’s goals, backstory, and internal conflicts. Feelings must be part of conflict because the story is feelings.

Not all conflict is earth-shattering. Sometimes the character IS the conflict (internal). Do not create perfect characters with no flaws. What the character is doing is not as important as why they are doing it. What’s happening is not as important as how he reacts to what’s happening.

Starting your story.

Start at the point of change. There are two schools of thought:

• Start where we see the main character in his normal world first.

• Another says to start in mid-scene at a point of change, using dialogue. This is a faster pace

I prefer the first.

 

Exercise: Watch a movie, and look for differences between conflict and delay. Determine the main character’s goal. What are the obstacles that keep her from reaching that goal?

An example is given in the book:

Don’t Breathe

Three characters, attempting to rob a house of a blind man, try to escape with their lives.

Obstacles were locked doors, being shot, and chased by a mean dog. (page 20).

Cheryl St. John, Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict, Writers Digest Books, Blue Ash Ohio.

 

Categories: About Writing

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