Prepared by: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: Sun, 18 Nov 2001
Reposted on: Sat, 13 Nov 2004
Reposted on: Sun, 23 Oct 2005
We have all seen the lists of basic types
of story conflict: person
person, person versus nature, and so on. This exercise deals with
self - with inner conflict.
Sometimes, when we are writing (or
reading) we can plainly see the
for a character's behavior. However, often that motivation is only the
one. Below that, perhaps going back to something in the character's
even something he or she only imagines, is the real reason for the
Here are a couple of ideas Rhéal
The child facing a dare is torn between
fear (including fear of
looking like a
coward), pride, and the desire to fit in.. That dragon is scary and
but the question is: will the knight attack, or chicken out?
This is similar to the exercise you all
did in July. In fact, the
almost exactly what was posted for that exercise. Although that turned
be an interesting and worthwhile exercise, the sumissions weren't what
and I intended when we came up with it - most of the subs dealt with a
divergence between professed and actual goals. We were thinking more
lines of two (or more) motivations being in conflict.
We were looking for someone with mixed
motivations - one submission
the criteria was the child who wanted to please his buddies by bringing
one of his mother's pies, but didn't want to disappoint his mother by
What we are looking for this time is the
conflict faced by someone
who has two,
or even more, well defined but incompatible goals, like the mother who
stay at home with her children, maybe also feels compelled to care for
ailing parent, but also has the desire to return to a full-time job. Or
young man who doesn't want to disappoint his buddies by not
on a mountain climbing expedition but has a paralyzing fear of heights.
also a chance for a date with the prettiest girl in class, as well.
This week's exercise: In less than 500
words, show us how your
behavior is influenced by having two conflicting goals. Your
have more than two goals if you are ambitious, but there must be at
Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
This went much better than the previous
exercise. Almost everyone
include at least two goals for their character. In a few cases, it was
that the character had already decided what he or she was going to do,
they still seemed to be mumbling and grumbling about it. But most had
obvious push-pull of two or more distinct paths to follow.
This is actually the basis of most fiction
- more than one goal,
two goals are embodied in on person as we had in this exercise, or
are the goals of two people - as in a romance novel where there are
several "goals." There is, of course, the chemical reaction between
heroine and hero, the push and pull of love and desire, but the goal of
love is thwarted because the hero and heroine have opposing goals
love angle, and that conflict must be solved before the romance can run
Examine any short story or book and see if
you can discover what is
Anyway, a good exercise and a good balance
of subs and crits. Best
of luck with
this week's challenge.
Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: Fri, 26 Nov 2004
The submissions to this run of the Torn
exercise seemed especially
including well-developed conflicts and strong characters.
The best submissions this time left
readers wanting the stories
they could find out more about the conflicts that were established.
critiquers mentioned the use of present time as helpful in clarifying
details of the conflict. Honesty within the conflict made for
lines and held readers' interest. Strong story beginnings established
encouraging readers to continue. Showing instead of merely telling
For next time developing secondary
characters and their conflict
will make for
a stronger story. Elimination of irrelevant details and story lines and
concentration on the main ones may help make a stronger conflict,
readers in further.
To summarize, perhaps good conflict
produces strong characters, as
these stories produced. Thanks for submitting to the exercise, and keep
Patricia L. Johnson
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.