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How Values Drive Conflict

I just want to share some thoughts that came to me as I was considering conflict in scene writing. I am going to use the same lay out that I do in my book Mastering Your Scenes., which is keeping things simple so they can be easily assimilated and put into practice.

Values Defined

The teachings from family or important individuals that define the outlook and response to circumstances that are encountered as well as those an individual sets for themselves.

While it may be somewhat obvious, I believe it is worth saying, that values are a powerful component of both internal and external conflict. In truth, they can be both a hindrance and driving force at the same time.

Typically, it is easy to see the antagonist as lacking values but even they are driven by their own set of guidelines that they had been raised with or that they have rejected for a certain reason and replaced with others. When it comes to conflict, it is not a matter of labeling either the protagonist or antagonist’s values as good or bad or right or wrong. The importance is the understanding of how these values drive the internal and external conflict of them both. Of course, the other side of that is how these values hinder the internal and external conflict. To be more specific, I am speaking of the hesitation that is naturally produced when certain core values are challenged. With that said, any hesitation during physical conflict can prove to be fatal. On the other hand, things can play out where the character overcompensates or reacts too quickly instead of hesitating.

Example of Hesitation

Let’s say the protagonist has the upper hand and is just about to slay the antagonist but they cry out for mercy and toss away their weapon and surrender. Yes, this has become cliché, but we all know how it usually plays out, with a backstab from a hidden weapon of some kind. The point is this is what I am talking about, the protagonist in this situation is momentarily stunned with an internal conflict of his or her personal values to show compassion, even to the most despicable or to uphold the honor of their own or some organization they belong to.

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The Key to Conflict in Fiction Part II

Last time we discussed that the heart of all conflict is the struggle. We also spoke about how that the struggle helps to create more depth for immersing your reader in the conflict in your scene. The focus was on the internal resistance. Let me clarify something before we continue, struggle is at the heart of conflict but that is not all that it is. Although conflict is about resistance, I am speaking about resisting and being resisted. Sometimes a push receives a pull and a pull a push in return. If one side yields in this tug of war there is no longer any resistance and therefore out goes the struggle as it gives way to submission. This is why I have declared that struggle is at the heart of all conflict. I hope that makes sense.

Today we will be looking into the other piece of conflict which is external conflict. What you need to realize is that both external and internal conflict are two sides of the same coin. The point is that you really cannot have one without the other. If this is not something that you have realized in creating your scenes than it could very well be the main reason your conflict is not capturing your own attention as well as that of your reader. No problem, because this is part of the reason we are talking about it.

Aside from internal and external resistance being a part of the same coin and struggle being the heart of both, there is one more important element that you probably have overlooked that is essential for embellishing the conflict in your scene.

So, what may that be?

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The Key to Conflict in Fiction Part I

Whether you realize it or not at the heart of all conflict, is resistance. Simply put, it is the struggle. It is the struggle that creates depth in conflict in your scenes. The more the emphasis is placed on the struggle the greater the immersion of the conflict for the reader. Perhaps you have not been viewing your conflict in your writing in such a way, but I encourage you to do so. Once you look at it in this way it will provide many opportunities to embellish your conflict in ways you may not have realized. It will also make it easier to spice up the action and cause your reader to better identify with the plight of the characters so called futile resistance.

Having said all that, resistance comes in external and internal forms and these two naturally feed each other and further expand the tools you have to enhance the conflict in your scene. However, I will only be dealing with internal resistance. I believe it is somewhat undervalued in the art of scene building and I am persuaded that internal resistance is the true catalyst in conflict. Even for the pushover character, once they have finally been pushed too far they are willing to exert some external resistance in the form of retaliation. Please see the excerpt below taken from a scene in my sci – fi work in progress Fulfilling a Vow: Looking for Answers.

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The Background People

Everyone is familiar with the fact that characters are the actors that entertain us in a story. What may not be well understood is just what the important roles of those characters are as well as their types. Generally, what comes to mind is terms such as Main Character, Protagonist or Antagonist. While these are specific, I like to break characters up into more general roles such as Primary, Secondary, and Indigenous. In my book Mastering Your Scenes I get more specific as to what these are. For now, I will just explain that even the Main Character could take on a secondary character role at times and does more often than you realize especially if you are with multiple Main Characters. However, I wish to deal with a character that is, dare I say it, essentially more important than your Main Character.

What character would that be?

The Indigenous Character of course, is whom I am speaking of. Simply put the Indigenous Character is the one that naturally occurs in a particular location in a scene. You know the background person. They sometimes are the lame minions with no names that are getting mowed down by your Main Character just to make them look good as they guard the bad guy lair. At other times they will be the nameless people customers in a bank being robbed as well as the staff just for an example.

Let me ask you some questions:

Have you ever read a scene with a character moving through a crowd on a busy city street, but it did not feel like they were in a crowd?

How about characters at a grand Gala event but it did not have the feel that there was anyone else present but the Main Character?

If so, you have an example of poor use of these Indigenous characters.

So, what is the purpose of the background characters?

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Unblocking Writers Block

Have you ever wondered why writers block is such a difficulty to get past?

I will tell you the reason, you can’t write what you can’t see.

It sounds quite simple right?

In other words, the real secret to overcoming writers block is remembering the writers most powerful asset that allows them to unlock their imagination and in turn do the same for their readers. That amazing asset is visualization. Of course, if you are an artist you already know that but that is also why it is such a problem. It does not lie in the knowing but the lack of providing that visualization with the necessary fuel to unleash its full potential.

So how would I suggest you doing so?

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Tuning In

As a disabled veteran who has been dealing successfully with idiopathic autonomic, small fiber neuropathy with anhydrosis and hypohydrosis there is one important fact that I have learned very well. Before mentioning that I will tell you that since November 2005 when I was stationed in Mosul Iraq during my last year of Active Duty up until 2009 sometime I was bound to VA narcotic prescriptions. However, since I have learned to make use of this most powerful tool available to everyone on the planet, I have been able to ditch all of the drugs, feel much better, with a lot less pain and never look back, at least not with remorse.

That is an incredible statement to make isn’t it. You see it is not a trick and it will cost you a great deal but you won’t spend a dime for it.

Why is that?

Because all it requires is that you take the same nurture and care that you would devote to a newborn. However, you must be consistent and persistent without slack or you will pay for it. I’m sure I’m driving you crazy by now but that is just my writing style.

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