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Confessions of a Contest Judge: Making Conflict (part 2) June 18, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.

Monday, I threw the first punch on how to write throat-gripping conflict.  That post, Confessions of a Contest Judge: Conflict (part 1), garnered the second highest number of views since I started Raw & Dangerous, three short weeks ago.   

Conflict is obviously a hot topic for us writers.  And well it should be.

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 his my eyes and tell me that the only way your pen is coming out is when I’ve turned the last page. 

Do that, and I’ll buy your book.  And, if the ending is as good as the beginning, I’ll recommend your book to my friends, while keeping a sharp eye out for your next cover.

Conflict creates writing careers, me thinks.

So, now that you’re back for more, the question is, can I deliver on my promise to show you how good, solid, believable conflict, always begets more conflict?  That you never need to hold back, stringing the reader along because you’re afraid you’ll tip your hand too soon.

I think I can, if you’re willing to help.

Conflict that keeps on giving starts with your opening line.  Here is an earlier post I did on building knockout first lines.  But conflict rarely begins there.  Conflict begins (and ends) with your characters, no matter what genre you write. 

Many excellent books have been written on developing a character’s GMCs (goals motivations and conflicts), Debra Dixon’s bestseller being primary.  But I’m a “pantser,” of sorts.  Excessive planning drives me nuts, gags my muse, and leaves me with nothing but a well-organized laundry list of empty, emotionless scenes.  If that is how excessive planning leaves you, perhaps my “system” of freethinking will help. 

You game?


Now, all we need are two good characters.

Into our hero, Cole Turner.  Cole is a business entrepreneur.  He learned business by working with his father and expected to inherit the company he and his father built.   Instead, the profitable company was dissolved in his father’s will with all the money given to the mega-church that Cole grew up in but rarely attended as an adult.

Enter our heroine, Jenny Boyd.  Jenny is one-year sober thanks to one of the inner-city missions managed by said church.  On her way to her new up-town job, Jenny rear-ends Cole’s new BMW at a traffic light.

The First Line of the story is “Shit.”  (nope, the story needn’t be an Inspirational)

Time to extrapolate some conflict.  I’ll start in comments.  You post from my post, and then our neighbor will post from your post, and then our neighbor’s neighbor will post.  Well, you get the idea.  By the time we’re finished, we should have a boatload of churning, heart stopping, throat-grabbing conflict that will carry Cole and Jenny (and the reader) through to the end.  And we’ll have something else too, but we have to build it first in order to see it.

Remember, the only rule is creating gripping conflict.  Let’s get started. (see my first comment on how to proceed)



1. ninapaules - June 18, 2010

Cole does not like Jenny. Not just because the front of her Gremlin is sticking out of the back of his Z4 or that she’s made him late for a make-or-beak meeting with a private capital investor. Obviously lowbrow in her polyester second-hand suit, Jenny is one of those people his father was always helping. People who wouldn’t help themselves. How the woman landed the uptown temp job she claimed to be late for was beyond him.

After exchanging insurance info with Cole, Jenny prays she never meets the man again. It was only by the grace of God, he didn’t recognize her. Of course, spending a year on the streets, strung out on heroine, did age a person. Staring down at his business card, she can only hope that Turner Enterprises was so big and her secretarial temp job at the firm so insignificant, she’d never run into him.

Next scene: Cole is strolling through the hall to his office.

Now, take it away next person.

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