Monday, January 13, 2014

When Two Conflicts Collide - Now That's A Great Plot!

The title says it all!

We all know there are two types of conflict in our stories. We have the internal conflict that the individual characters have to wrestle with on their own, and then we have the external conflict, that often is the big motivating force for the entire story. Too often, however, I am seeing stories with one of three other scenarios: 1) characters with weak or no internal conflict; 2) no external conflict; or 3) external conflict that is really nothing more than a complication. Instead of focusing on those today, I want to look at the situations of some great conflict.

As I said, the title says it all. Plots can be really fun and exciting when we see these conflicts coming into play with one another. The result is that the author has set up situations where decisions will have to be made, and, potentially, someone is going to lose out!

I was just reading a project recently (and yes, I did request a full of this one) where the author had carefully planned out the conflict. I am going to keep things pretty vague, however, since I haven't had a chance to really work this one out yet.

In any case, Character A is working hard at achieving a status within a company, but is facing a huge resistance from the family. No one really thinks the character can do this, but the character believes it is possible. Here is an external conflict coming into play.

Now, to achieve this Character A must work with Character B who has a history that isn't exactly on the up and up. Still Character B does have a reason for doing all that is being done but wrestles daily with how those two don't quite work together. In other words, the history is forcing the character into situations that are less than desirable, and now Character B has to justify the actions. Now we have internal and external coming into play.

At this point we bring the two characters together. For A to achieve the goal of working at the company, Character B must be taken down, but to take Character B down means the past history of that character, which is justifiable and all Character B is working for will be ruined. Not taking Character B down means Character A loses out.

Hopefully this made sense. It is a bit difficult to leave out those pronouns and keep it vague, but I think you get the idea.

What makes this scenario work is the simple fact that we as readers like the characters enough. We like what they are fighting for, and when we see them in a situation like this, we want to help them find a solution out of it. On the surface it seems daunting and impossible, but we know it is possible. It is just a matter of finding a solution that both of the characters work through together to achieve.

So look at your conflict today. Is the conflict setting up a real puzzle for your readers and characters to struggle with and solve?

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