Tag Archives: craft

What Conflict Really Means

Janice Hardy's cover for "Understanding Conflict (And What it REALLY Means) is in the background and the post title, 'What Conflict Really Means' is superimposed on the top.

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Ask any agent or editor to list the top three reasons manuscripts get rejected and you’ll find “not enough conflict” on that list. Conflict is at the core of every story, and without conflict, there is no story. It’s so vital, “conflict” and “story” are almost interchangeable when writers talk about it. It’s common to ask, “What’s your story about?” and have the author describe the conflict.

Which is part of the problem.

Since conflict covers such a wide range of storytelling, it isn’t always clear what people mean when they say “conflict.” Does it mean the plot of the story? The character arc? Does conflict mean the characters have to argue? Does it mean a physical battle? Does it mean soul-crushing angst or a mustached villain plotting against the hero at every turn?

No. Conflict fuels the plot and character arc, but they’re separate elements. You can have conflict without battles, without major angst, and without evil villains bent on world domination. Some of the best conflicts are those between characters who love each other deeply, but can’t agree on what to do about a problem.

I think the biggest reason writers struggle with conflict is that it’s not just one thing. Conflict is a one-two combo of a challenge faced and the struggle to overcome that challenge.

  • The conflict of the plot (the physical challenges faced to resolve the problem)
  • The conflict of the character (the mental challenges faced to resolve the problem)

These are the two sides of conflict and they appear in every story (and scene) in some fashion. Let’s look at each of them a little closer. Continue reading What Conflict Really Means

Remember the Little Things During Revision

Bluebird held in a child's cupped hands with the post title, "Remember The Little Things During Revision" superimposed on the photo.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I read a lot of blog posts about revision and most of them are focusing on the big things: arc, character development, conflict, etc.

This is a post to remind writers about the little things.

As time has gone on and I’ve written more books, I’ve been much better about catching the small-but-important stuff as I’m writing the first draft.

But it used to be something that my editors had to point out to me.

What are the little things? For me, they’re like tiny little plot holes.  And frequently, they’re involved with a subplot instead of the main plot (for me, solving the murder mystery).

For example. Say you have a subplot involving a minor aggravation for your protagonist–something to make her feel tense and add to the general stresses she’s experiencing. Her lawnmower is broken and her yard is a disaster and she’s supposed to host a dinner party (where someone ends up dead).

The dinner party happens (with guests hiking through the underbrush to the front door). There’s a mysterious death.  The sleuth investigates.

But at some point, her yard man comes by and heroically mows the yard. Continue reading Remember the Little Things During Revision

3 Vital Elements of Craft: Subplots, Scenes and POV

by Hank Quense, @hanque99

Today, author Hank Quense offers tips on three vital elements of the writing craft: subplots, scenes, and POV. 

Integrating subplots naturally:

I’ve seen subplots mishandled many times.  When this happens, the subplots interfere with the main plot.

The trick is how you approach subplots.  They are by their nature “subordinate.”  Subplots have a defined space within the novel; they can’t just be thrown into the story any which way the author feels like it.  If you have more than one subplot you have to categorize them from most important to least important.  The subplots are then nested within the main story line.  Like this: after the characters are introduced and the plot problem recognized, a scene from Subplot A can be added.  After a number of scenes from the main plot and an occasional one from Subplot A, Subplot B is introduced.  More Main plot scenes are broken up by scenes from Subplots A and B.  Then Subplot C is begun.  Now the bulk of the story continues with the subplot scenes dropped in to break up the Main plot. Continue reading 3 Vital Elements of Craft: Subplots, Scenes and POV