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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is a Car Crash Conflict?

External Conflict is what happens outside of the physical body: The obstacles your characters face throughout the story.

Internal Conflict is emotion—what your characters feel inside (unresolved life problems usually stemming from childhood or past relationships).

The best stories are ones where the character(s) must face past unresolved issues. Example:

After the accident that killed two children while she was babysitting at the age of fifteen, heroine refuses to let herself fall in love with this man who has two young children.

Your characters should learn something by the end of the story. If they don’t grow and learn, there is no story.

In the example above, the heroine needs to learn to forgive herself. The fire the kids started when she was babysitting was not her fault. She received third degree burns trying to save them, but in the end, she couldn’t. By the end of the book, she should learn a new life lesson: To forgive herself. She will learn this by being around hero’s children. The conflict/obstacles throughout the story should allow her to grow. Hopefully new conflicts will arise as she faces old ones.

Find your characters’ flaws and/or fears and then force them to face these demons throughout the story until the black moment that ultimately forces them to face that fear once and for all and learn something about themselves.

Ask yourself questions as you move from scene to scene:

Are the characters actions logical or realistic?
Is your story moving forward?
Are you spending too much time describing unimportant events as you move the characters from Point A to Point B?
Is the conversation between your characters interesting?
Is your reader going to empathize with your characters?
Is your reader going to want to turn the page to find out what happens next?

About the question: Is a car crash conflict? Does the crash move the story forward? Does it make the reader want to read on? Probably not. Unless it happens to the hero/heroine while he or she is running from the bad guy, it's just trouble.

Now tell me: What do your characters need to learn? Compassion? Gratitude? Forgiveness? Acceptance? What are their flaws and/or deepest fears?

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At 12:09 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Okay, I guess I will have to comment on my own blog! :)

In my GH 2008 finaling romantic suspense, the heroine will need to learn to trust again. She will also need to learn that killing her father's murderer will not bring him back.

My hero needs to learn acceptance, since his sister was killed by a cyberstalker who enticed her out of the safety of her home with words. No matter how many bad guys he puts away, he needs to accept his sister's death.

I guess both my characters need to learn acceptance and in the end, they do.

I think it was Vicki Hinze who said something about finding your character's flaw or achilles heel and then stomping on it. she might have been quoting someone else, but either way, if you can find your character's deep inner fear or flaw then put him or her through scenes that will make him conquer that fear, then you'll have a better book!

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Great advice, Theresa! I need to check my plot points to see if my conflict's working for me. I sometimes get off track.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Yipes! I have a huge external conflict. My internet is down! And I'm at the library, trying to get messages to everyone on why the usually chatty Diane is so quiet.

My internal conflict is that I blame my poor husband for this, even though it is probably the cable company. I must grow beyond blaming every computer malfunction on him, just because it is his area of expertise.

I'll let you all know when it is fixed again! But it could be DAYS...

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Hi Theresa! I'm here a little late in the day but nonetheless.

Picking up with the story I described last week, my hero needs to learn to forgive himself for the mistake he made as a teen in fathering a child out of wedlock, and to trust others, women in particular, to keep their commitments.

After growing up in a poor home, then marrying the first guy who offered her stability but who eventually dumps her, my heroine needs to learn to plan a bit, to be a little less spontaneous, yet to trust God to care about her daily life. (Didn't tell you it was an inspirational but it is.)

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Oh, Patricia, I like your book a little more every time you talk about it. You cannot give up on writing that book! You must finish. That makes perfect sense that it's an inspirational. Sounds like you've got the conflict down too. What page are you on? Have you been able to move on with the story? I want to see you send that baby out asap! Let us noodlers know if you need help moving on to the next scene...We're here to help!

And Diane, LOL with the conflict in your life...especially blaming your poor husband. Is this what he does for a living?

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

I'm intrigued by this hero of yours. What will he go through in the course of the story that will enable him to forgive himself for getting his high school girlfriend pregnant? The trust issue seems like an additional conflict and like it could be just as big as the first one mentioned. Are you writing a single title or are you targeting a shorter line like Love Inspired? The reason I ask is that you have a lot for him to deal with and you may have to intertwine those conflicts about trust and forgiveness of self.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Diane: D'oh! How will you survive?!

Patricia: It really does sound like a great story.

In "Telling Lies," my heroine has to learn to live the life she wants, not the life her dead mother would have wanted her to live.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I like that title, Esri... Telling Lies. And I like what the heroine has to learn. It's tough to follow your heart when the people you love want something different for you. What does the hero have to learn, if anything?

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

I've started to post about a million times over the last few! Sometimes it doesn't cooperate.

These conflict posts have given me much to think about. Thanks so much for offering up examples!

Patricia, I absolutely love inspirationals! Once I thought they would be all 'preachy' and I shied away, but once I read one, I was hooked. I love both Harlequins and Bethany House historicals.

Teresa, I'm still pondering the "deepest inner flaw/fear and put him through it." Thought I did that, but now I need to look again...

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

You gals are great encouragers! I haven't written but about 2000 words because I really wanted to nail my characters and conflict before I did to avoid wandering my way through the story, as with my last manuscript.

Okay, enough pondering. Time to write!


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