The Wayfarer (mnfaure) wrote,
The Wayfarer

Conflict: Enough? Right kind?

I suppose I should thank navicat (aka joanneanderton) and frigg for collectively plunging me into a world of despair. While "thanking" may seem an odd response, it's perfectly valid because the nasty dip has allowed me to see a problem I have in TTD and will hopefully keep me from repeating the same in WW. That is IF it's a problem.[1]

I don't know if my head is clear and my heart disengaged enough to judge.

The other day, navicat was pushing me to cobble together a query letter for TTD so she could kindly take those cobbles and pelt me mercilessly with them. Being a masochist, I naturally obeyed; and while flailing around on the threshold of despair, I pleaded with frigg to give me a hand, some insight, a swift kick in the rear, anything to unblock the block. Together we decided I needed to get off the pc, take up pen and paper, and map out the conflict, so I could play those things off one another in the query.

Which led to the revelation in all its horrid glory...

I took most of the major players from TTD and listed their needs. I then tried to map out how I had played those needs off one another in order to create conflict:
Defense Exhibit A: Diagram of Non-Conflict

Thankfully, the point here is not to read my messy handwriting, but to see that in terms of conflict, I think I fail in this story. Let me break it down for you.

The solid red lines denote needs that cause emotional conflict. The wavy/dotted blue lines show needs that are opposed so they cause tension, but not outright conflict. Only the doubled, dotted red lines show actual, tangible conflict in the story.

Oh, but you want to know about the green lines? They make the diagram look like things are hopping. But, no, sadly, that isn't so. That's several different parties wanting the same thing and YET NEVER ENTERING INTO CONFLICT OVER IT!!!

My main character? Basically only in conflict with herself. The POV down at the bottom? Yeah, pretty much only in conflict with himself, too. *wails*

Internal conflict is all well and good, but if it's the only thing floating this epic boat, I think querying it needs to be the last of my worries.

I'm not looking for reassurance[2] here but wondering what your thoughts are on:
1) internal conflict (how much is too much? When does it become the equivalent of navel-gazing?);
2) how you ensure that you are putting your characters through a variety of conflict;
3) when do you put that first novel aside forever (or until you have a few other finished, polished manuscripts and the experience that goes with them)?

Deciding it was better to get the conflict mapped out ahead of time in WW, I drew another diagram (on my whiteboard and then redid it in Photoshop to spare your poor eyes). Even without detail, I think it's clear that I've got the conflict covered in this one. Now I just have to write scenes that bring it to life.
Yes, that lack of conflict between Lelo and Mirco is bothering me, too--throws off the symmetry of it all--but I'm hoping something will occur to me when they meet up.
[1] These two articles, Crisis vs Conflict by Dennis G. Jerz and How to Write Conflict by Elizabeth Richards, which address conflict vs crisis, seem to say that maybe I'm doing ok. I did say "maybe."
(articles in a nutshell: crisis = circumstancial event/action; conflict = decisions/struggles that a character makes, often based on the crisis. Richards reiterates that conflict happens inside a character, while Jerz stresses that conflict encompasses introspection, exploration of values, examination of choices...)

[2] However, if you critted TTD and feel up to commenting, I'd be interested to know if, while reading, you kept asking yourself, "Where's the conflict?" See? Still not the same thing as asking for reassurance.

ETA: Sorry if the formatting is still wonky; tried to fix it to no avail. I give up.
Tags: that thing called writing, ttd, witherwilds

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