Naked Notes #4
We writers have heard it over and over – and we readers love to see it over and over again.
Let’s face it, as writers and readers, we love to love the character who has to grow and overcome something. It’s what keeps us reading and going back for more.
It all boils down to CONFLICT.
Conflict doesn’t have to be a person; it can be a thing (environment, situation, circumstance), animal, alien–you name it, if it stands in the way of the hero/heroine achieving his/her goal, it’s conflict. A good character who has conflict is the character who connects with us and sticks with us for years to come.
External conflict is what keeps the plot moving forward. It’s the drama in your character’s life. Don’t we love drama? Of course we do! It has to weave through your entire novel all the way to the end.
Internal conflict is the emotional obstacle(s) stopping the hero/heroine from finding peace, love, or whatever emotional payoff he/she seeks.
You can’t have a good novel with out the conflict, and that means external and internal!
The characters who live through conflict, and overcome it in the end, give us reader satisfaction.
Some things to note:
First realize that memorable moments sometimes come in quiet moments. It doesn’t take a breath-taking scene to create conflict.
E.T., the movie, is a great example of connecting with the character in a quiet moment. How much did you connect with E.T. when he was hiding in the closet among the stuffed animals. He had everything to lose, the tension/conflict was huge, yet it was a quiet scene you’ll never forget. Big internal conflict.
Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone With The Wind, is another great example. Whether you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you can still picture Scarlett standing on Tara with the sun setting behind her and her hair blowing in the wind. She has goals, motivations, but most of all, she has major conflict which is conveyed in that one moment.
So how do we do this?
Make a list of what your hero/heroine might have to overcome:
Guilt (character vs self)
Cheater (character vs society)
Overcoming trauma from the past (character vs nature)
Learning how to love (character vs fate)
Proving their innocence
These are just a couple. The lists are endless and you as the writer can come up with anything for your characters as long as it keeps the reader reading. And that’s our ultimate goal.
With your list, you will be able to create your Character Arc. This is when your hero/heroine unfolds throughout your story. Your hero/heroine will begin with a certain view point and as your story progress, your hero/heroine’s view point will change and develop until ultimately he/she overcomes the obstacle in his/her way.
Xena the Warrior Princess started out as a young Greek farm girl. She evolved into a warrior–Xena’s successor.
In the movie Rain man, Tom Cruise’s character in the beginning was a ruthless car dealer who’d do anything to make money and didn’t care who he stepped on. He faced major conflicts and by the end of the movie, his character developed, growing to understand into the importance of family, the quality of character, and in the process, his own character evolved.
These two examples involved high tension and the conflict continued throughout the story.
So what do you need to do?
Keep your characters in conflict throughout your story. They’ll evolve slowly through small conflicts and transitions you put in their way. They’ll grow and change at a slow steady pace. This will keep the reader involved. By the end of your story, the hero/heroine will face his/her conflict head-on (the black moment) and will come out the other side with a brand new perspective.
On June 12, we will be hosting our monthly Mini Workshop which goes along with this Naked Note. Have your homework ready to submit via email and remember no one else can see what you submit.
Make a list of your character’s internal and external conflicts. Or write a scene where your character is having to overcome/realize/torn between his conflict and reality.