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Confessions of a Contest Judge: Conflict (part 1) June 14, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.

This is my third year volunteering as a RWA chapter contest judge.  Judging, for me, is win-win.  While I give back, as so many writer friends have given to me, I am forced to explain why a certain contest entry, or story element within said entry, doesn’t work.  The effort teaches me a lot about craft.  That’s my win.

Here’s yours.

Conflict is your most lethal weapon.  Chapter one, page one, word one, stab me in the heart with your pen.  Pull no punches.  Never hold back.  Knock me to the ground, grab me by the throat, glare into my eyes and guarantee me that the only way your pen is coming out is when I’ve turned the last page.

Do that to me on page one and you will win every time (with this judge, at least).

The problem is, most new writers invariably pull that first punch in the very first line, then the second soon after when the first character is introduced, then the third part way through scene one.  As a judge, I continue reading.  But as a reader who was hoping for a black eye, I’m emotionally gone.

I think I know why writers do this, because, as a writer, I’ve done it, too.  Why did I do it?  Why did I feel like I had to string you (the reader) along, slowly luring you in, not wanting to give too much away?  Because, quite frankly, I didn’t believe in my story; or more to the point, the conflict holding my story together.

But good, solid, believable conflict, always begets more conflict. 

Don’t believe me?  Check back on Friday and we’ll give it a go. 🙂



1. Linda Banche - June 17, 2010

Linda the Loser here. I’ve never won a contest. Granted, I haven’t entered all that many, either. I’ve finaled once, so I guess I’m not a total loss. I don’t think I could judge. Good for you.

ninapaules - June 17, 2010

Linda the Loser? Hah! Try Linda the Published. Now, that’s more like it. 🙂 When’s your next one coming out?

2. Linda Banche - June 17, 2010

Nina, I love you.

My next one is MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE, a Regency Christmas story, which comes out on Nov. 3 from The Wild Rose Press. Again, be prepared to laugh.

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