Friday, August 13, 2010

CONFLICT - Layering it through the book - the Onion

Something that seems to give a lot of writers probelms is the idea of 'layering' a conflict, using the same conflict but changing and developing it through a story so that the conflict becomes more complicated - but not the book!

I had two questions about this that I'll deal with over the next couple of posts but the first one is from Racael who simply said:

I'd like to learn more about layering the conflict through a story.

So let's take a look at:

Adding layers to a conflict

Very few reasons for conflict, however powerful, can actually last through the whole of a book without changing, adapting, developing, or just varying in tone and emphasis. The best sorts of conflicts are those that have layers and layers of involvement, and as each one is dealt with and peeled away, it reveals another complication, another aspect of the same problem, or a different development of it, going deeper and deeper until finally the central core of the problem is exposed, ready for you characters to tackle it.

That's why I use the image of an onion for a conflict because the real 'heart' of the story, the real core of the conflict is not revealed until you have stripped away so much of the outer lyers.

This pacing and staging of the revelations that make up the conflict adds to the suspense and the tension that keeps the reader turning the page. It also has the bonus of increasing and building on the sexual tension between the hero and heroine as they want more and more to be together but feel more and more that it will be a mistake/a danger/a disaster.

I tend to start out with a main character - either the hero or the heroine and a situation that they are in -

Okay - classic secret baby conflict (overused - but it's quick and easy and I have a book of my own kin mind to be able to use to list the stages of development of the conflict. Also, it's surprising hgow often I read this one when the writer simply thinks that it's the baby that is the cause of conflict. And it's so much more than that.)

So she has a baby - So the first question you need to ask is what happened in the past?

Obviously the H&h had a relationship - an intimate relatinship but now it's over so -
Why didn't she stay with the father/tell him about the child ?

The answers to that will give me some more idea of what the conflict issues will be -
- In my story she left him because she knew he never wanted children and she feared he would force her to choose between the baby and him and she knew she could never have a termination

Next - What is going to bring the two together

He comes back into her life

Has he been looking for her - or is it by accident?

Each of these will have a different effect, different tension, different initial conflict

The answer to that will give me an idea of how he's feeling and so how he's going to react when they meet again.

Then putting the two together creates the initial conflict.

And if you want to split it up - the

External Conflict is that her ex lover and the father of her child has come to stay in a cottage on the farm where she now lives and works

and the
Internal Conflict is all the rest!

Short term conflict - She doesn't want him to know about the baby He believes she walked out on him for someone else because this is what she told him to protect herself from him trying to keep her with him

Long term conflict - the unresolved problem of the fact that he doesn't want children and she does and he thinks she has a new man in her life. Also her fear of how he will react when he knows about the baby - and what he will then want to do (claim the child? Reject the baby? Reject her totally?)

So - the first conflict we see is that she hides the child's existence That's stage one
But they still share the sexual passsion they had before

But she can't give in to that because of her secret

Stage two: - But then he sees her with the child - doesn't realise it's hers - a different conflict - should she tell him or not?
Especially as he is clearly taken with the child

But she is fears his reaction when he discovers that she lied

Stage three : Her friend gives away the fact that the baby is hers

He now knows about the baby - but thinks it is younger than it really is - so the conflict shifts again He thinks the baby is with her new man and that's why she left. Same original conflict - but it's changing and reshaping with additional information

- He gets to know the child - thinking it's someone else's.

- But the 'other man' isnt in her life - so maybe they can be together - because he still wants her sexually so very much

Stage Four Then he finds out the truth - the age of the babyand the fact that there is no other man - makes it clear that she is his

A new slant on this stage - how will he react to the realisation that he's been deceived?

He also has to face the fact that it was his own refusal to have children that made her hide the child in the first place

He also needs to come to trust her enough to tell her the reason WHY he doesn't want children
His emotinal development/internal conflict is vital at this point.

Stage Five: He comes to love the child - but does he love the heroine?

Stage Six : He explains why he didn't want children Which adds another complication.

They are building peace in order to care for the child but is there any more to it?

Stage Seven: Black Moment He has fallen in love with his baby and insists that he wants more than just access - he wants the child in his life The heroine sees this as a demand to take the child from her - that he wants the baby not her

So you see, this all started from the original conflict of him not wanting children but not saying why

Which leads her to react in one way

And he reacts to that - which changes the situation

And she reacts to the changed situation . . . .
Very little else is brought into the story but the characters and their inner conflicts

So the way to develop a deep, emotional conflict is to work from the inside - to go with the characters' feelings and the way they react to each stage of the developing conflict (Keep it simple - dig deep) That reaction will spark off an answering reaction in the other person - emotional reactions, not conflicts created by outside forces.

And because the reactions, the emotions and so the conflicts come from deep inside the characters' hearts, the conflict in the book will have the emotional punch that editors are looking for.
(c) Kate Walker

If you want to see these changes in action - the book is HIS MIRACLE BABY (Presents Feb 02)


Lacey Devlin said...

Another incredible post :) Thanks so much Kate!

Alexandra said...

Very useful information, thank you. :o)


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