Monday, February 18, 2013

Story Element #2: Conflict (Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!)

Favorite meal? Favorite thing to cook? SO not the same thing! I'm still enjoying my Valentine's chocolates. Hope you are too. I also hope you are having a stress-free, conflict-free, heart-healthy weekend. It IS national heart health month, you know. In the words of my children's P.E. teacher, "Get up. Get out. Get active." A.k.a. GUGOGA!

Cover Art
Today's book is...

Author: Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummell
Illustrator: Janet Stevens
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
Year: 1999
Word Count: 1463

Summary: With the questionable help of his friends, Big Brown Rooster manages to bake a strawberry shortcake which would have pleased his great-grandmother, Little Red Hen.

You know, last night I dreamed about this dog that was chasing me. JUST KIDDING. That was my lame attempt at introducing conflict by NOT sharing what you were expecting. Anyway...

Remember the top three story elements: character, conflict, plot. When a character encounters conflict, the plot unfolds. Conflict creates plot by giving our story a purpose, a reason to be told. Conflict creates rising action, a very important part of plot. Conflict is the action the characters take, or sometimes the lack of action. The sequence of several conflicting events becomes the plot by way of the character choosing to take action. A good story seamlessly weaves all three together. Through conflict, our stories will also have action and suspense.

Action = happenings
Suspense = uncertainty

The easiest way to understand it is to study it. Learning craft isn't just about writing. It's important to see how it's successfully been done before in order to know how to incorporate it into our writing.

Big Brown Rooster is sick and tired of always eating chicken feed. He remembers "the story of his famous great-grandmother, the Little Red Hen." He finds a recipe he wants to cook.

Conflict 1: The others say he can't do because he's never cooked before. But that doesn't stop him. He's determined.

Conflict 2: He asks for help, and of course all the barnyard animals say, "Not I."

Conflict 3: After three unlikely volunteers (to read, get stuff, and taste) join Rooster as a team, he asks what the first ingredient is. Flour. But Iguana picks a petunia. Rooster says, "No, no, no. Not that kind of flower."

Conflict 4: Pig wants to taste, but can't.

Conflict 5: Iguana doesn't know what sift means until Turtle tries to explain, but still gets it wrong and makes a big mess.

Conflict 6: Pig wants to taste, but can't.

Conflict 7: Iguana measures the flour wrong, and Rooster has to explain how to do it right.

Conflict 8: Pig wants to taste, but can't.

Conflict 9: Iguana doesn't know what a tablespoon is or how to measure with one, and Rooster has to explain yet again.

Conflict 10: Pig wants to taste, but can't.

Conflict 11: Iguana grabs a STICK instead of a stick of butter, then Pig wants to taste it, but can't.

Conflict 12: Cut in the butter, but not with scissors. [Can't you see the pattern here, of each instruction becoming it's own conflict?]

Conflict 13: Beat the egg, but not with a bat. And yes, Pig wants to taste...again.

Conflict 14: Add 2/3 of a cup of milk. Don't use a saw to cut the cup! A taste please?

Conflict 15: It's finally in the oven. Now they start making the strawberries and cream. DING!

Conflict 16: Still more steps to take. Let the cake cool. Layer it. And it's finally picture perfect! But, OOPS! Iguana drops the masterpiece. SPLAT!

Conflict 17: And you guessed it...Pig ate it! Squabbles ensue.

Ending: Rooster tries to calm things down and bring everyone back together again. So they make a second cake and it's much easier the second time around. They even share with the other barnyard animals.

TODAY'S LESSON: What does your character want? What can you throw at them to make a mess of things? Now try to put it in a logical order that will create a naturally flowing plot based on the character and the conflicts? [Yes, I think I just asked you to make a rough outline.]

TODAY'S QUESTION: What was the last thing you and your child (or any child) made together in the kitchen? (Chocolate Pumpkin Pie for me.)

Keep on keepin' on...


  1. That sounds brilliant. Something to ponder for my chicken story.

  2. Thanks, Christie! I was wondering about conflict and Stacy Stenburg pasted this post on my facebook page. Thanks to her for sharing this great post on conflict. (And thanks to you for posting it): )


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