Conflict 101

Today’s exercise is very important but shouldn’t take too long. There is no recommended reading today, but I’d highly recommend looking through some of Limyaael’s Fantasy Rants.

Conflict is the thing that drives your story. It is your character trying to overcome obstacles. Conflict can be man/nature, man/other man, man/woman, or man/himself. The best stories have multiple layers of conflict and tension between characters, and between characters and their environment. Today you’re going to figure out the conflict behind your plot.

Questions

Remember that this is largely a brainstorming exercise. Don’t be afraid to branch off in different directions and follow your line of thought to its natural conclusion. These questions should help you figure out your plot.

1. Who is your main character? What is their main goal? Your character must desire something or be trying to achieve something. Everybody has goals, wants, desires. The main goal of your character should be a central focus of the story. My character Marla’s main goals are escaping the Queen’s grasp, finding Logan after they are separated, and restoring her family name’s honour. These goals pretty much make up the story.

2. What stands between your character and achieving their goal? How difficult is it for them to get what they want? Make this a point form list of notes. List anything that you can think of that could stop them from achieving their goal. Think about which options are most plausible, which ones have the most possibility of conflict, and which ones are most interesting. Pick three or four of your favourites.

The villain can be listed here, but there’s more about that.

3. Who is your villain? What is their main goal? Your villain is just as important as your main character. Does their goal clash with the main character’s? If so, how do their goals clash? Is it planned or accidental? Is your villain looking for a fight?

4. What stands between the villain and their goal? If the villain’s goal is to have the hero killed, for example, how does the villain intend to do that? What is stopping them? Is your character highly skilled in battle? Do they have friends protecting them? Is your character actively standing against your villain? If so, why?

5. What other conflicts will be going on? Are there outside conflicts that have some effect on your character? There could be a war going on around them without them being directly involved, for example. How do these conflicts change your character? Will other characters come into conflict with your main character? What kind of conflicts can you see your main character getting into?

My character Marla will come into direct conflict with several characters throughout the story, mostly the Queen and her family. Logan, her best friend, will also come into conflict with a lot of characters-partially defending Marla. They’ll probably also face some nasty creatures in the woods.

Prompt

Write 1, 000 words about a character’s first kiss, either your main character or a very important side character.

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About Dianna Gunn

I am a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. My first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now through The Book Smugglers Publishing.

Posted on January 7, 2011, in Novels, Workshops, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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