Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Conflict: Shortcut to Great Writing

Join me on November 5th for a fun workshop on Write Short to Succeed.

Here’s a possible exercise we might be doing in my workshop at ICAN’s upcoming
Second AnnualTreasure Valley Writers' Fest at the Cloverdale Reception Center, Boise, Idaho, Saturday, November 5, 2016, from 1:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

This exercise is inspired by the newest title in my Hows and Whys series, Writing Conflict, to be released soon.

Conflict is the key to unlock great writing. Finding the conflict is also the easiest way to write anything. Every good piece of writing comes from the conflict in the story, article, whatever.

Examples: an article about fixing your toilet yourself, what’s the conflict? The conflict is in you need your toilet fixed! Can you fix it yourself? Even a recipe has inherent conflict. Will you be able to replicate the dish? In a romance story, girl lost boy, will she get him back?

In fiction, people often confuse conflict with other elements in the story. Conflict is not a fight between two people. Conflict is what led to the fight.

To find the conflict ask these questions:
What’s the problem? (Sewage all over the floor, need something new for dinner—not the sewage, broken heart that might never be fixed)
What’s the goal? (Fix the toilet, make dinner, get the guy back)
What’s the need/desire? (To have a working toilet, to eat, to be with the man you love)
What’s the emotion? (Frustration at the broken toilet, hunger, grief/anger at losing the boyfriend)
What gets in the way of obtaining this goal? (Can you fix the toilet yourself? Do you have the ingredients to make the dish? How does the woman get the guy back?)

An argument in a romance story between the girl and her boyfriend is the end result of conflicting emotions: she’s mad at him, but loves him, but hates him, but wants him to be/do/act get the idea. During the argument, there needs to be conflict. Does she really want to get him back? Is it impossible to get him back? In fixing the toilet, do you have the proper tools? In a recipe, do you have the right ingredients, or can ingredients be substituted? Conflict raises more questions.

Here are some scenarios for you to find the conflict in:

A weight loss article
Two women in a bar, co-workers after work on a Friday night
An article about travel
A person visiting his/her grandmother in a nursing home
A memoir about a relative born during a time of war

Have fun with this and remember there are lots of ways to add conflict to your writing.
Questions? Please comment and I’ll do my best to answer (and hope I can answer, hmmm...more conflict?).

 One successful result of writing short, Mild West Mysteries.