Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Article | Time to Blow Some Shit Up - Conflict and Your Writing

This post started off as POV themed, to lead into why I chose the POV for my NaNo novel. By the time I was near finished writing the article the strain had shifted to be about conflict. I have saved my spiel on POV, but today is about conflict.

Does your novel have enough in your face conflict or are you pussyfooting around because you don’t want to hurt your babies?

My bible go to book series for master story telling is the Realm of the Elderlings world by Robin Hobb. It consists of three trilogies: The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, Assassin's Quest); The Liveship Traders Trilogy (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny); and The Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool's Errand, Golden Fool, Fool's Fate). Often times throughout my blog you will see me reference her. It is with good reason. Read her books and you will know. She has a talent. She can tell first person like nobodies business yet still capture the POV of the supporting characters. She has an amazing talent for third person limited as well, weaving in multiple strands of story and POV flawlessly. She also has a way with characters, routinely torturing them. There is no easy road for her protagonists. It’s all uphill in twenty feet of snow with wolves nipping at their heals. Consequently her characters show true growth, undergoing amazing personal changes. The woman deserves a standing ovation for her work.

I knew I would need to have conflict in my book. But I didn’t know if I would have the mental fortitude to write the way Robin does. I didn’t know if I would be able to torture my babies. Put them in situations where they might not get out of.

So I gave my characters conflict in a detached manner. The system is flawed, must fix the system. But without any concrete examples of the conflict encountered. Not a direct influence. It wasn’t personal enough. But I couldn’t find the mental fortitude to shake things up.

Until late one night.

I was tired and exhausted yet still plugging away at my story. Needed to make word count. I was writing a minor POV character. He’s trying to escape the city, ahead of those that want his life. Haven’t met the antagonists, they are just some detached conflict motivation. He’s destroying evidence when he is caught by the crime overlords of the city. I was writing away moving things forward when the conflict found me. And it was an “aw shit” kind of moment where I new I could ignore the situation and write him a clean break, or I could deal with it. I chose to deal with it.

Now it is one of my favorite threads in the books. I want to write more about it. I want to toss all of my characters into the fire now and see how they do. I am done protecting them. Done letting them be all high and mighty. It’s time I see what they are made of and how they deal with real in your face conflict.

Robin Hobb, here I come. Aspiring to follow in your footsteps. I didn’t think I had it in me at first, but now I know I can do this. Time to blow some shit up.