The All is Lost moment is powerful because it is primal ~ Cory Milles

Loss in the course of life is inevitable, yet we eventually become enriched and deepened by pain. We learn and grow from experiences of difficulty.

As writers, we can employ obstacles, failures and friction in a similar way, to force our characters to evolve.

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In his book, The Prophet, poet, Kahlil Gibran, writes of love, ‘He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant.’ This gives an apt metaphor for human life. In our short spans on this planet, we suffer and win and are made anew. ‘That you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.’

This is exactly which happens in life and what we seek to get right with writing fiction. It’s why people read, too.

As my teacher Kate de Goldi said, ‘We remember the readings that acted like transformations.’

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Author, PJ Reece wrote, ‘We’re not attracted to stories without conflict simply because we can’t learn anything from them. They are empty of the seeds that might nurture our own growth, in whatever direction that might be. Of course we love to read happy stuff in books too, but only after the hero has travelled his or her difficult path of personal growth and finally reached the reward for their journey.’

This is precisely why we like books with a solid definable problem.

Think Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort, or Katniss vs the tyranny of the Capitol. We know who we’re cheering for and that there’s the promise of a good fight.

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All stories, since the first tales told around the campfire, capture the same essence, that of our collective struggle through life.

The stories we remember are those about characters who strive and fail. We love those who transcend their lower natures to become something more, because we relate to that battle. The triumph of our tiny hero, Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings, when he throws the ring in the fiery pit is universal and the jubilation at the return of the king is the sort of life-affirming, inspiring fodder we will read for generations. They’re the stories about the human condition, our common travail, and they’ll never age.

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In the Warrior Writer’s course I took with tutor, Bob Mayer, he taught us that conflict is the fuel of a story. He also taught that the goals of the protagonist and antagonist must be opposed, although their goals don’t need to be the same thing.

Whether your antagonist is the ocean, a person, or an idea, in order for the core conflict to work, it must bring them against the protagonist in direct dispute. For one to achieve what they want, the other can’t achieve their goal. Therefore they become locked in a dilemma which needs to be resolved.

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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If your story is low key and quiet, then force the protagonist through inner fires. ‘The best stories — and the most lifelike — are ones that follow/force the protagonist through a series of disillusionments.’ Wrote author PJ Reece. ‘I see all protagonists as bumbling their way into the dark, otherwise they never leave their valley, the Valley of the Happy Nice People, and who wants to read about that? No one.’

In other words, if you want your story to be remembered, get the problem nailed down because a sturdy conflict can turn a mediocre story into a bestseller.

With a believable force opposing our hero, the characters are forced to make choices, and we ask which choices they will make and what will be the result. Result: reader engagement.

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Some stories have a background antagonist, who presents no immediate threat, in which case most of the conflict will come from friends, family, team members and “threshold guardians.” Yet, whether there’s a direct or indirect antagonist, each external mini-battle must expose more of the root of the character’s internal conflict.

Each test slowly grinds them to whiteness, teaching them a life lesson or giving them the option to change and grow.

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Within each story there are both internal and external sources of conflict. The internal relates to the character’s inner flaws which need to change. The external refers to the physical forces opposing him creating tension.

In every scene the ideal is to have both an external and internal conflict.

The transformation at the end of the book comes only after the protagonist confronts their limitations and defeats both them and the antagonist. Hopefully, there is a glorious resolution of storyline. There is a positive change in the central character arc, a blooming of the protagonist’s full potential, and a reward, a boon, “the gift of fire” to bring back home for the tribe.

Or as writer, David Farland said, ‘At the end of your novel, there are only three rules: Payoff! Payoff! Payoff!’

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Life is trouble. When everything goes wrong, what a joy it is to test your soul.’ ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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