Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dear Morgan ~ Why do I need CONFLICT in my story?

Morgan Hawke
~ Mad, Bad, and Dangerously in the Know!
----- Original Message -----
"Dear Morgan, I got this comment from one of my critique partners:

- "This is a nice clean sexy romp. But this needs to be more than just a nice clean romp. Your characters need to be a bit more troubled. You need more Conflict, as in: there needs to be more to this story than just: 'Am I going to get laid?'"

Which has me thinking, I have a plot...why do I need Troubled Characters and Conflict in my story?
-- Concerned Erotica Writer


Dear Concerned,
- From the sounds of this, your Plot is: "Boy & Girl Get Laid". That's all well and fine for a Penthouse letter, but it's not a STORY. "What Happens to the Characters BECAUSE they Got Laid", is a Story.

When your characters don't have 'troubles' or 'conflict' you don't have any DRAMA -- your characters Don't have a Character Arc.

PLOT ARC - The events that happen while the characters make other plans.
CHARACTER ARC – The emotional roller-coaster that the character suffers because of the Plot.

Character Arc = Personal DRAMA
Personal DRAMA = ANGST

-- A Story needs ACTION to be Interesting.
But~! A Story needs DRAMA to be Riveting.
Stories are all about Characters CHANGING; about Adapting and Overcoming circumstancing that should take them down. The Proponent and the Adversary change and develop as the story progresses to allow the Proponent a toe-hold chance - and no more - to win.

Changing takes SUFFERING. Both the Proponent and the Adversary should suffer emotionally and physically to allow for their personal changes. Think about how hard it is for YOU to change your mind about liking or disliking anyone. What would it take to change your mind? That's the level of suffering - of Angst - you need.

The difference between the Proponent and the Adversary is the Adversary’s failure to change. The Adversary fails to face his fears, which allows the Proponent to take him down. The rest of the cast may or may not have personal growth, but the Proponent and the Adversary must. This is where dramatic tension is generated.

Drama! Drama! Drama!
What causes ANGST?

(Breaks out the text-book …)
"Angst is caused by a change of circumstance that produces a feeling of loss. This triggers the reaction of grief. The intensity of the grief depends on the importance of what has been lost. If the loss is perceived as minor,
("Oops, I forgot my keys!") then the moment of grief will be minimal and barely felt. However, unresolved and severe loss (a loved one,) can lead to mental, physical, and sociological problems."

Cool huh?

“That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.” – Nietzsche

NO ANGST = No Character Depth
I’m sure, most of you have noticed by now that far too many movie characters, and many book characters, are One-Dimensional. The characters DO stuff, but they don’t face any real personal issues: a hang-up, a fear, paranoia, a moral code, a love interest, a strong dislike…

Without hang-ups to deal with, and face down, those characters are not PEOPLE. They’re pretty card-board cutouts moving around on a pretty stage. They're EMPTY.

Or worse – they DO have issues, but those issues are never faced in the story. They're just...quirks, there, as a decoration. They're gratuitous.

WARNING! - Incoming RANT!
NOTHING should EVER be Gratuitous!
- If it's important enough to be IN the story, it's important enough to be PART of the story!

The rule of Mystery Fiction states:
“If the gun is shown in Chapter One, it better go off by Chapter Three -- and there had better be a damned good reason for that gun to be there.”

The Rule of Erotic Fiction:
“If the Kiss is shown in Chapter One, the Sex better happen by chapter three -- and there had better be a damned good reason for that Kiss to be there.”

These rules should apply in ANYTHING you put in a story. No matter what it is: a situation, an object, a person... if you have it in the story – you better have a use for it, and that use had better turn the plot.

If your Character has a Hobby, a Pet, a Family, a JOB -- you need to show that character involved with those things, and those things effecting the plot in some way shape or form.

If you have a piano in the character's living room, someone better play it sometime in the story -- and make something HAPPEN because it was played.

If you DON’T, you’ve just made a PLOT HOLE, and I guarantee that someone will not only See it, they’ll call you on it. It could be a fan who writes you a concerned letter, “Whatever happened with…?” or worse, a Reviewer read by thousands.

EVERYTHING noted should have a use in your story -- that includes a character's PERSONAL Issues.

No Personal Issues = No Personal Drama
No Personal Drama = BORING Story

If you are determined to skip the Drama, then you better have a hell of a lot of ACTION to make up for it! (Think: James Bond. Lots of action -- but no character growth what so ever.)

Wanna know More about Character Arcs?
For the nitty-gritty details on Building a Character Arc, Go to:
Building the Character Arc - Angst Glorious Angst!

For a Cheat-Sheet on Plotting with the Character Arc, Go to:
Emotional Conflict & PLOT!

Morgan Hawke
Smut-Writer - and Damned Proud of it!

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