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Writing Craft Wednesday: Conflict – Make It Worse

I took a couple weeks off doing only writing prompts while I figured out my new schedule for my blog. My new goal is to alternate between Writing Prompt Wednesday with Writing Craft Wednesday. So today marks the first Writing Craft Wednesday!

Today I am going to finish up our look at GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Here is a list of the previous GMC posts:

 

Conflict: The Heat of the Story

So what is conflict? If goal is the “what” and motivation is the “why,” then conflict is the “why not.” Conflict is what your character must face in order to achieve their goal.

 

 

External conflict often comes in the form of a physical being, usually the villain. The villain causes problem after problem for the hero or heroine. All five senses are engaged when dealing with this maniacal menace. You can smell them, see them, feel them, hear them, and depending one what is going on… taste the blood they draw.

 

Internal conflict is more subtle. Whatever keeps the hero or heroine from learning their life lesson, that is your internal conflict. Just like anything else internal, it is emotional. Perhaps it is the self-conscious voice which keeps them from seeing their worth. Perhaps it is the guilt of not being there for a loved one when they were needed most. Whatever it is, it evades the five senses.

 

 

Why include conflict?

Readers like to see characters tested, run through the wringer, and facing their worst fears. Anticipating an explosion of conflict is what keeps the reader turning the pages.

Besides the excitement conflict brings to a story, it also brings depth and complexity to the characters. It is through conflict characters learn to dig withing themselves, grow and rise to the challenge. Through conflict they become a hero.

 

Think something is bad? Make it worse.

So how do you make the conflict engaging and page turning? Strife, tension, dissension, and opposition are key elements in creating conflict. Start with making a list of bad things which could stand in your character’s way.

 

Found one? Good. Now make it worse. Worse? YES! WORSE!

 

For one of my characters she is potentially losing her house. Initially, I started with the loan belonging to the bank, but then I applied the above principle. How did I make it worse? The loan belonged to a vicious loan shark who will get his money one way or another. Does that create more problems and stronger conflict? You betcha!

 

The stronger your conflict, the stronger your book.

 

Think your character has it bad?

 

Make it worse.

Character Motivation – Answering Why

Last week we took an In-depth Look at Character Goals. This week we will examine the why of external and internal goals. At the end of the post you will find application questions to guide you on your way.

 

What is Motivation?

 

Goal and motivation co-exist. You cannot have one without the other. In fact, when defining our goal, motivation is taken into consideration. Motivation is the reason why they take action. It is what drives them.

 

The character wants his goal because of the motivation. It is the why.

 

 

Make It Compelling. Make It Urgent.

 

Motivation is important. It is a major element which helps us to empathize or connect with the character. My motto with motivation is “Make it worse.” This adds to the urgency of the goal.

 

The great thing about the fiction world is you can do what ever you want as long as the reader understands the why.

 

Your character has a loan they cannot repay? Make it worse. A bank will repossess your house and the items you own, but what a merciless loan shark would do can be far worse. Imagine how the plot would be different for each of those scenarios. Which story line will be more compelling to read?

 

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Taking Motivation a Step Further

 

Motivation shouldn’t only drive your overarching goal, it should drive your character’s every decision and action.

 

  • Why did honest Joe steal from the bank? Because his family was being held captive and would be killed if he didn’t.

 

  • Why did the rich heiress choose the even richer rogue instead of the man she loved? Because her family was in financial ruin and her little sister would not be able to receive treatment without his infuse of money.

 

Give a reason which will make your characters willing to risk anything and everything to achieve their goal. Give them no other choice. A weak motivation leads to a weak story.

 

One Last Tip

Character motivation needs to match your actual character. Make it possible. Your story can be wildly crazy and believable as long as you have the right motivation.

 

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Would a Union woman cut off her hair, pretend to be a mute boy in a Confederate prisoner camp, and secretly help Confederate men to escape? (If you are a history buff at all, you can imagine the risks that woman is taking. Doing so is completely against her best interest.)

 

If you give her the right motivation, it could be a completely believable story.

 

Application Questions:

  • What is your character’s goal?
  • What is their motivation?
  • How can you make it worse?
  • Is your motivation believable for the character? Would they really make that choice?
  • Do your characters have a purpose that moves them toward their goal for the scene you have created?

 

Share some of your answers in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts. Are there any other guiding questions you would add?

 

May God bless your journey to follow “The Write Call”,

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