Monday, July 16, 2007

The Trouble With Conflict

It's said that Story is Conflict. Guess what? I suck at conflict.

At a workshop taught by the fabulous Jennifer Crusie, she let on that a lot of what we think is "conflict" is really Trouble, masquerading as conflict. In my WIP, I looked long and hard, and realized that most of my current "conflict" is, you guessed it, Trouble wearin' a dress.

Most readers who are unfamiliar with the writing process don't really get to see the ugly part of story crafting. They don't get to read the first drafts, or the jumbled mess of scenes that get cut from the final WIP. And they should be grateful, really. At least in my case. Even other writers, who theoretically understand there's a difference from a draft and the finished product, have a mess that's totally different from mine in the middle of the process.

In order for conflict to be present in a scene, both character and plot have to change. Scene conflict is a smaller-scale representation of the conflict in the story. So I've been looking at story conflicts lately to see just what kind of story conflicts are most appealing to me as a reader.

I'm crazy about the types of stories that show a character taking a fall and struggling back up. I love seeing a character learn what they're made of. You'd think I'd find a conflict like that simple to write--or at least easier, courtesy of familiarity, but sadly, I'm discovering that's not the case.

So I'm setting out into my WIP, looking for trouble, and fixin' to start a real fight. Wish me luck. And have bail money ready.


Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Great post, Xandra! I'll chip in for bail!

MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

I agree great post. I think maybe a way to keep conflict and trouble straight in my mind is that for me...conflict is that internal or cultural mechanism that keeps the hero and heroine apart. The major problem they have to overcome in order to be together. It can be external or internal, but I think the biggie ones are usually internal. Trouble is what the villian or other outside factors the h/h have to overcome to reach a particular goal, which may or may not be directly tied to the romantic conflict. The thing about trouble doesn't just wear a's got an entire wardrobe to hide behind.