Sunday, July 11, 2010

Conflict Breakthrough

As I've mentioned before I am currently in the process of working with my fantasy novel so I can start revising soon. Before I even look at my draft I want to flesh out both the world and the characters more, which can be a daunting process. But as I was reading one of Holly Lisle's more recent e-mails her answering a question on conflict really got me thinking.  I know how conflict works in novel writing, but my thoughts after reading the e-mail gave me my own epiphany. It was almost like a cartoon light bulb moment. I saw my main character's various conflicts and how they moved the plot forward.

This got me thinking further about character choices as relating to conflict. Whatever conflict big or small a character is currently facing they can choose how to try and solve that conflict. I thought it might be fun to draw up a conflict and choices flow chart. It would be good to flesh out what the various choices could cause for the character, which of course would introduce more conflicts which would then have their own options for a character to choose. The important part in all this is understanding why my character will choose what she does and what are the stakes.

Character drives plot. One can have an interesting idea for a novel or short story, but for the writing process the plot forms around the actions the characters take while trying to overcome the conflict. With my fantasy novel I have been struggling with the level of conflict for my character which in turn has been making planning/writing this novel difficult. Now thanks to the thought process after reading Holly's message I can better see the main conflict for my character along with how it will tie in with other conflicts.

Even though this post is about conflict my breakthrough will help with the worldbuilding as well. With analyzing the various conflicts it will give me a good way to break down different facets of the world and I will be able to figure out what exactly I need to flesh out more for the world.

I am still planning on starting my character challenge series soon, sometime this week. I figure this post is related to that in a ground work sort of way. Looking at various personality traits for a character can help understand why they react a certain way to a specific conflict.

(I hope this isn't to disjointed. This post has been ruminating in my mind since my breakthrough last weekend when I took 3 pages on handwritten notes on the subject. I wanted to get this posted before today gets away from me. I want to go through some boxes around the house in preparation for some work that's going to be done. I'm aiming to avoid the last minute shuffle of stuff that inevitably leads to misplacing items).


KarenG said...

I totally agree with you that character drives plot. I'm currently reading On Writing by Sol Stein (again), and he says this over and over again.

Claire Goverts said...

I've gotten the character drives plot in the creative writing course I took, and in other books on writing. It is an important part of writing which can be easy to overlook at times. I know I'm making more of an effort to understand how my characters actions are moving the story forward.

I'll have to check out the Sol Stein book sometime. I like to see other writer's takes on writing.

Mike said...

I've found that as I work on my novel I take more and more notes about characters, their histories, motivations, and what they're thinking as things go. I also find that thinking about what they want in the story gives me ideas, like you say, more of the world to fill in. I'm on my 3rd notebook already!

In movies a special effect without a story behind it is a pretty but useless device. In writing, a world without characters and conflict to make it live is about the same.

Good writing Claire!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Characters + good conflict + crafting = nice book.

Came by from KarenG's bbq post. :)

Jayne said...

Hello. I came by via KarenG's blog - nice to 'meet' you!

Getting to grips with the characters and working out what motivates them is a great way for settling plot issues. I love finding out more about my characters! But then again, I love research, and end up doing tons more than actually goes into the story.

Ann Best said...

Character and conflict are the two basics, in novels and in screenplays. In screenwriting terms, character is action, action is character. The character DOES something, which implies PLOT/STORY. To write a screenplay, you must write back stories so you'll really know your characters. I was trying three years ago to write screenplays and learned a lot in the process that helps me now with scenes in my books. I'm slim on description (my weakness) and strong on dialogue (my asset).

Thanks for a post that got me thinking about all of this.

I'm glad I met you at KarenG's BBQ. I'll be back, and I hope you'll have a minute to come over to my blog and meet me and my disabled daughter.

Claire Goverts said...

Thanks all for stopping by :) I'll be checking out your blogs this weekend, and am looking forward to it.

Mike - Notebooks are handy.

Angie - Thanks :) I'm hoping that in this revision prep process that I can really flesh out my characters and their conflicts. The crafting will come with my revision outline, and actual revision.

Jayne - Characters are fun to work with, and I also love research. With my characters sometimes I'll take a notebook and do some free writing from their point of view.

Ann - Character driving plot is something that I learned in my fiction writing course. The proffer stressed that point, which makes sense. Things happening feel forced unless they happen because of what the characters are doing.

This is a fun topic to think about. I recently had the mental gears going over this thanks to the writing list I mentioned in this post. At least in more detail then I have before and applied to a current work in progress.