Monday, September 12, 2011

Chapter Anatomy: Conflict

Happy Monday and for the two of you following along, Welcome Back! Today I’m moving on to the next part in your chapter breakdown: Conflict.

scene sequel breakdown

Conflict is the second part of the scene/sequel structure. This part is easy peasy lemon squeezy. Your goal in this part is to set up a series (or just one nice big one) of obstacles to prevent your mc from obtaining his/her goal.

You want your character to get through them because they need to reach “Disaster” which I’ll talk about Wednesday. Think of yourself as a sadistic sonofabitch and your character is a masochist. They want conflict. Without conflict, the reader will be B.O.R.E.D.

Hey, is that my friend calling with a fantabulous new read?

So, back to my examples! Yay! In my urban fantasy, I have three scene/sequel setups in chapter 1. I’ve been using the first two in this series of posts.

In example 1, Natalie’s goal is to get Travis on the road to PA without her. Her motivation is to avoid spending time with the inlaws. This all sounds simple enough. What on earth could I do to make this harder for her?

I glanced at my watch and saw the depth of interstate traffic thickening with each tick of the second hand. “Oh. You need to go.”

The corners of his mouth turned down slightly. “Natalie—”

I cut him off with a finger over his lips. “I know what you’re going to say, and I already told you, I’ll be fine. I haven’t talked to Jon since . . .”

. . . since the night I let Jon drag me to that club, I didn’t say. Couldn’t say.

A cold shiver shook me from the core out, followed instantly by an invisible fist tightening over my heart. Jon and I never fought like we did the day after. Never like that. I didn’t know what he was caught up in, but whatever it was felt horribly wrong.

“Natalie.” Travis brushed his fingertips over my cheekbone. “I know he’s your brother, but I don’t trust him. He’s running around with some crazy cult, getting trashed every night, and probably doing drugs. He almost pulled you down with him once. He’ll try again, and when better than while I’m gone?”

“Do you hear yourself?” I dropped my hands from his chest. “He’s not just my brother. He’s my twin. My best friend. We’re all each other have left.”

So the conflict in that scene is the brother, Jon. Travis is worried about leaving Natalie alone, which she now has to talk him down from. That’s a conflict. Small, yes, but conflict nonetheless. Remember what I said about making these scenes relatable. Some of us might actually reconsider going if our loved one is that worried.

Okay, example 2. Natalie’s goal/motivation is to relax and forget about Jon and all the drama that goes along with it. Here’s the conflict:

Snuggled into a corner of the sectional with a glass of Mom’s favorite cabernet, very recent flashes of memory caught me up and I lifted my hand to the side of my neck. A small cut. Blood on his tongue.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” Jon had said. “So he licked blood off your neck, what’s the big deal?”

His response left me gaping and speechless.

“I’ll tell you what a big deal is,” he continued. “Dancing with that guy, Kyle. Did you tell your fiancĂ© about that or did you strategically leave out the part where you cheated on him?”

“It was just a dance, but since you brought it up, why don’t you tell me why Kyle—”

“So you didn’t.”

I ran a palm over my neck and forced the memory away. There was no reason for me to feel guilty, but somehow Jon managed to do that by bringing up my dance with Kyle Abbot. He’d only done it to divert attention away from him and it worked. I’d left shortly after that and we haven’t spoken since.

In this example, the roadblock to mental bliss is the constant emergence of memories.

Of the three (Goal, Motivation, and Conflict), conflict is probably the easiest to achieve. At least it is for me. And conflict can come from anything. What sort of setting are you working with? Can it be used to keep your mc from reaching his/her goal? Later in my manuscript, I use the setting—a worn torn town—to keep Natalie from reaching her destination. But remember, you can’t let the conflict actually stop your mc. I had to let Natalie get through the ripped up streets and torn down buildings. I let her get soooooo close, then DISASTER! Anyway, just keep that in mind when creating your scene/sequel sets. Take a good look at your setting. How alive is it and how can it help you screw with your mc?

So that’s it for today! Go in search of your conflicts! Are they there? Are they awesome? You’re awesome. No, you’re awesome. No, you’re awesome.

See you Wednesday with DISASTER!

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