Saturday, January 31, 2015

Writing tools #10

Let's talk about conflict strings.

Conflict strings are the actions and reactions between characters/groups that escalates as the story goes on.

I'm currently online classes with Dave Wolverton/Farland at My Story Doctor, and they have been wonderful. The classes have helped me understand so many things that I'd heard or read about online. Today, I'm going to talk about one of them. Conflict strings.

Conflict strings have seven basic steps:

1-Inciting incident - What happens to let the character/group know they have a problem with another character/group? What is that big thing that pushes the character/group into action? Sometimes it is an outside force that is the inciting incident and not something the opposing character/group does.

2-Action - What does the character/group do about the inciting incident? How does the character react to the inciting incident? Sometimes the actions are more of a thought that the action is wrong.

3-Reaction/Counter - What does the opposing character/group do in response to the character/group's action? How do they act that will escalate the situation? This is one of the key points in the story where the problem really starts to get messy.

4-The second action - Like the first action, what does the character do to deal with the reaction/counter? Which choice does the character pick that ends up escalating the situation even more?

5-The big push back - What does the opposing character/group do to push the situation past the point of no return? This is the big key setup for the end of your story.

6-The conflict's climax - How does the point of no return force the opposing characters/groups to confront one another to settle their differences? What do they do about all this escalated tension? This is one of those points where it is really good to have about 3 or 4 of these different 'Point-6s' coming together at the end of the story. If you have 3 or 4 of these in the last chapter of your book, the climaxes all come to a head and explosions of tension and trouble are bound to come up.

7-The resolution - How does this conflict end? What do the characters get in the end?

Each named character/group/nature/self/love interest should have one of these. It's best to start with your main conflict - Protagonist v Antagonist - then work on the others such as the Protagonist and the Love interest, the Antagonist and the love interest and the Protagonist and his self. Keep branching out until you have a spiderweb of conflict strings between all of your characters. Some characters won't have conflicts, and that's okay, but for those characters, you should write a paragraph explaining their relationship and mention if anything could go wrong. Once you have all of then written out, try to bring as many Point-6s together at the end of the story as possible. Though, the Point-6 of versus self should come before the Point-6 of versus antagonist.

Here's a quick example of what I mean:

1- Bob always knew Jack was a pig, but when he slammed the door in Jan's face, breaking her nose, that was the last straw.

2- Bob starts yelling at Jack and telling him to apologize.

3-Jack turns around and hits Bob, and they start to fight.

4- Bob calls the cops.

5- Jack convinces his brother, the officer sent to the scene, that Bob started the fight and assaulted Jack first; thus, Bob is handcuffed.

6- With Jan's help, Bob takes away the officer's gun and shoots both Jack and the officer.

7- Bob and Jan ride off into the sunset in a stolen police car.

(From here, I'd outline the love interest, Jan, with both Bob and Jack. I'd also do the conflict of Bob with himself, probably about how he thinks violence isn't the answer and has to come to a different conclusion. Then I'd outline the conflict between Bob and the police officer as to why the officer would side against Bob. Then I'd write a paragraph explaining the close relationship between Jack and the officer/his brother. The climax with self would happen just before the climax with Bob and Jan while the climax between the Bob and Jack, Bob and the officer and Jan and Jack would happen in a breakneck set of events at the very end of the climax.)

Anyway, I hope that helps.
Thanks for reading,


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