That's all! This is the 'stache at almost five months of bulk. Now the question is, do I let it go further?
It's been awhile since I've had anything useful on the blog. I have no excuses for that. To make up for it, I'm going to do a mini-series on conflict and tension in writing. Buckle up, because it's going to be a crazy ride (Otherwise, it would be boring. See, we started already!)! The information found within comes from a variety of sources, as well as my own experience. I'd like to acknowledge Tim Esaias and Sharon Mignerey for imparting their knowledge of Conflict and Scene Craft. As well as Scott Johnson and Tim Waggoner for helping refine my craft.
If a story itself is a sandwich, then conflict is the peanut butter and jelly to that sandwich. In other words, without conflict, your story is going to be bland and no one is going to want to devour it. As an author, you want your reader to say, "I couldn't put it down." How do you do that? With conflict and tension.
James Scott Bell said, "Conflict has long been recognized as the engine of story. Without conflict there is no drama. Without drama there is no interest. Without interest there is no reader. And no writing career." So what does it mean to insert drama into your story? Well, first you have to determine what your story is going to be about.
To put this in a nutshell, conflict is when your character wants something and can't have it. The details come into the why and how of that character being unable to get what they want. Once you have that basic idea, ask yourself the following questions: Is your story a man vs. man tale? A man vs. nature? Is the conflict external or internal?
Just keep in mind, that one side of the conflict has to involve someone or something that is sentient and conscious of their decisions. In other words, the character has to be able to make choices. A story about two tornadoes meeting in a field might be visually interesting; however, there's not much tension because nothing is at stake. However, throw a man trying to save his family from one of those tornadoes, and now we're talking.
These concepts may seem fairly basic, but you'd be surprised the amount how integral they are to your story. Without a clear grasp of the concepts, the rest of the story won't come together.
The next step, is to make this conflict familiar to the reader. As an author, you can make this happen by making protagonists that are likable/connectable, and to write conflict that has emotional familiarity. What do I mean by making a protagonist who is likable or connectable? It means the reader has to understand where they are coming from. Generally, most authors will write a main character who the readers will like. If not, the readers at least have to be able to connect or understand (empathize with) where the protagonist is coming from.
For example, let's say our main character is a person who kills others. For most readers, we aren't going to connect with that or like it. However, if we find out he's killing others to save his family, or his tribe, or his country, then it shines a different light on the matter. We can now get behind his actions and root for him. (This is a simple example and not fleshed out, but a common trope in books and movies.) After you establish that aspect of your protagonist, your next goal is to work in some emotional familiarity into the conflict.
Coming up next: Conflict Part 2--Emotional Familiarity.
That's right...the mustache sleeps, but soon the stars will be right and it will awaken. Who knows what will happen then. We're getting close to Christmas, which was the date I said I would go before trimming this bad boy. However, I'm considering waiting until after my college residency to trim it. We'll just have to see.
-by C.R. Langille
Lucy kept the pink slip Lower Management gave her; it hung on the wall of her cubicle in a cheap frame. They had the nerve to fire her just before the holidays. That was the best time for marketing, and they canned her. They claimed it wasn’t her, it was the economy. That there wasn’t enough resources to keep everyone on. Buckets of bullshit coated in chocolate.
With her experience and wiles, it hadn’t been hard to find other employment. Unfortunately, that employment turned out to be an entry-level job at a target marketing corporation.
At first, she was excited; target marketing was her specialty. Lucy had an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what a client wanted. However, this wasn’t the working environment she had in mind.
Her cubicle was grey, tiny, and unremarkable. The pink slip decoration was the only thing that set her cubicle off from the others. Plus, the job didn’t offer the kind of target marketing she enjoyed.
Lucy missed the thrill of the hunt. This was easy, which meant it was also boring. Here, the clients came to you. Where was the fun in that? She had to make a living though, and they couldn’t stop her from freelancing during her lunch hour.
It was time to get some real work done. Lucy checked to make sure no one was watching; it wouldn’t do to have an audience. Others may not understand, or approve of her methods.
Lucy logged into her personal mail account and started hunting. It didn’t take long before she found her potential client. Victor Marx, a thirty-something living in Whogivesashit, USA. She scrolled through the information on Victor and stopped halfway through—perfect. An impish smile slithered onto her face.
It appeared that Victor used to play Battlecraft. Lucy had to hand it to Lower Management for making that game. Pure genius. That game was more addicting than a hit of meth.
Lucy sent Victor an email with a promotional offer. Return to the game today, and get two months for free, plus double XP! It wasn’t long before he took a nibble at the hook. Giggles of excitement bubbled through her as she made her next move.
She placed an ad onto his FaceHangOut account stream. Lucy could almost taste his desire to play. Just one last step and Victor would take the plunge.
Victor started the download. Lords of Darkness be praised! Lower Management had to take her back. They’d see that they had made a mistake when they fired her. She was the best damn devil Hell had. Maybe they would even promot--
Victor stopped the download. No! Lucy sent him another ad, but it was no use. Victor logged off his computer.
She banged her head on the desk. A slight cough sounded from behind her—her new boss.
“Miss Fur, we have a policy about decorating your workspace.”
She sighed and took the picture frame off the wall. Marketing was hell.
C.R. Langille writes horror, fantasy, urban-fantasy, dark fantasy, and is considering stepping into the sci-fi realm. He has a grasp of survival techniques, and has been a table-top gamer for over 16 years.