Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writing Craft: Conflict

Without conflict there is no story, just a news report. 

Exciting stories always have conflict. The more conflict, the better. What does conflict do?  it gives your main character a challenge to overcome. It gives her something to worry about, think about, react to. 

In The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple, I set up a variety of conflicts for Sweetie to overcome.

Here are some of her conflicts:
  • Stop Mr. Dingsnapple from taking her eggs
  • Outsmart Cleopatra and Tut to keep them from finding her nest
  • Struggle with Cleopatra and Tut after they discover her nest under the porch
  • Escape from Mr. Dingsnapple’s cage
  • I don’t want to tell the rest, read the book and find them! 
Set up a worksheet with the following information on it:
Fill a page with this chart  repeatedly. While you are brainstorming your story, it will help you identify conflicts and how each character reacts to it.

  • Print out a copy of the page and carry it with you
  • When you think of a conflict, jot it on the issue line
  • If you fill your page with issues, print another
  • Go back and start filling in the details of each issue 
  • Issue:
  • Main character POV:
  • Opponent POV:
  • Arguments:
  • Action:

Let’s take a look at how it works:
  • Issue: (Name the conflict here)
    • Sweetie wants to hatch her eggs
  • Main character POV: (What is your main character’s Point Of View on the issue?)
    • She is thrilled at the chance to hatch her very first clutch. Hatching her eggs is the most important thing in her life.
  • Opponent POV: (This is the character who opposes, or causes problems for your main character.)
    • Mr. Dingsnapple has a chance to make extra money from the sale of the goose eggs
    • Cleopatra and Tut – Mr. Dingsnapple may give them a reward if they show him where Sweetie is hiding her nest
  • Arguments: (Jot down a little information or possibly things the characters might say)
    • Mr. Dingsnapple – Good! Here are four more eggs. I need to gather 100 eggs to sell within the next couple of months. I can’t let any eggs go.
    • Sweetie – if Mr. Dingsnapple takes my eggs, I’ll never have a chance to have babies! 
    • Cleopatra and Tut - who does Sweetie think she is? We don’t get to hatch our eggs, why should she be able to hatch her eggs?  Besides, who cares about stupid old eggs, anyway?
  • Action: (What action happens?) Action is extremely important.  This is where you jot down the kind of actions your characters will do.
    • Sweetie tries to hide her nest
    • Mr. Dingsnapple searches the zoo for her nest
    • Cleopatra and Tut search for her nest

Once you’ve filled out this form, you can use it as a guide to flesh out your story. 

Another word or two about conflict:
  • Conflict is directly related to action.
  • You cannot have too much conflict and action in your story. 
  • Try to make something happen on each page.

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