Friday, April 30, 2010

Bootcamp Wisdom SKILL #3: CONFLICT


Since a story is essentially a character solving a problem, that is the conflict. I swear while I was at Bootcamp, the muse visited me. My mind struggled to wrap around this simple element of fiction. Although I understand conflict, plot, and character and I have a degree in Creative Writing, my mind was opened, via the muse, to a whole new way of thinking about conflict. But, alas, the muse has left and my mind is drawing a blank. So please allow me to ramble as I try to remember its paramount importance.

...still thinking...

Ahh...yes, it is slowly returning...

Shall I ramble some more? (And of course, NEVER ramble in fiction, unless it is a character's specific trait to do so, evident through dialogue. But don't let dialogue in general ramble either. Dialogue should be the ESSENCE of conversation, not verbatim scripts of them.)

Okay, conflict. Conflict is the problem. A character encountering a problem. My realization was that problems are presented in multiple ways. One way is through complications in the character's journey toward a goal. And I got to thinking about one of my stories. Did mine accomplish this? I thought yes, then no, then yes, of course. But in a backwards sort of way. My character does not set out with a desire. She does not set out with a goal. She didn't WANT something. Yesterday, I said: someone, wanted, but, so, then. And this is what I'm talking about. Conflict, or problems, can also come in the form of just living life so happy and gay without any problems coming your way, then WHAM! life happens and a problem is lying before you wondering what you're going to do about it. So in this case, the conflict is "what is the character going to do about this problem?" What does the character WANT? To get rid of the problem and return to life as normally as possible. The character doesn't set out to achieve some great goal. The character doesn't want something specific in addition to his or her normal life. The character wants the normal life back. Plain and simple. I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it was a profound little lesson for me to learn. Not all characters are the same, but all characters do have to solve some sort of problem. Maybe that's why mystery writers love mystery. The problem IS the mystery to solve. Each character has his or her own mystery to solve in figuring out what to do with the problem that is in the way.

All this leads into tomorrow's topic of STORY LINE, which is why I struggled with conflict in the first place. I was trying to follow a type of formula, which actually works, but my mind typically doesn't work that way...


  1. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with those of us who couldn't make it to the boot camp, Christie! I love that you are determined to be published by 40. I have the same goal (I just don't have as much time as you do!).

  2. You're quite welcome! Having a goal will help us to stay motivated and keep working until we reach it. Thanks for the comment.


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