Writing Tips & Tools

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lesson 3: Inner Conflict

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel.

What I am going to endeavor to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. This will by no means suffice as an alternative to reading the book...or the workbook. I hope it piques your appetite to buy the books. They are invaluable reading and reference!

Today's lesson is in Section One: Inner Conflict.

A good step for growing beyond the technique of adding character dimensions is investing your protagonist with two goals....needs, wants, longings, yearnings, desires, pinings...okay you get the drift!

But to make it work...the two have to be diametrically opposed. When the character is being pulled in opposite directions, you have conflict....and that's what makes a character truly memorable!

The best part is the inner conflict doesn't need to be limited to your protagonist. Wahooo! Any character can be conflicted!

Okay...is your character conflicted? Have you expressed it clearly so that the readers are sure about it? What actions does it cause? How does it affect other characters in the novel?

Step 1. Thinking about your protagonist as a whole, what does he/she most want?

Step 2. What is the opposite of that?

Step 3. How can your protagonist want both of these at the same time? What makes him/her want them both? How can he/she persue both desires?

Conclusion: In creating real inner conflict, it's not enough to just make inner turmoil. True inner conflict involves wanting two opposite things that tear the protagonist in two directions!


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