Prepared by: Rhéal Nadeau
Posted on: Sun, 5 Dec 2004
This is a rewrite of an exercise we did in
December 2001 -
the original version of the exercise has been lost.
At the center of story, there is conflict.
There are several types
conflict: internal, between individuals, against nature, and so on.
exercise deals with conflict between characters, and, therefore, with
motivations of those characters.
First, note that conflict is with us every
day, from the war in Iraq
teen arguing against a curfew. So let us think about the conflicts we
or see. One thing to note is that in a conflict, each side is convinced
they are right.
There was a news story in the local paper
a few years ago. A blind
went to the convenience store to buy milk; the Muslim store manager
to let the man's guide dog into the store (Muslims consider dogs to be
impure animals.) The manager was not trying to be mean, in fact he even
offered to serve the blind man at the door; the blind man, however,
to be treated like any other customer and do his shopping normally.
Now, both men were well-intentioned, but
they had conflicting views
the dog represented: for one the dog was a dirty animal to be left
outside, to the other the dog was an essential aid to self-sufficiency.
Some conflicts arise without there even
being a real difference of
rather this is a perceived difference or gap. Think of the
argument between a husband and wife, based not on real conflict but on
unstated expectations and perceived faults.
Now, apply this to story-telling (and not
just to fiction - much of
reporting is really about exposing the roots of conflict, isn't it?)
are the hero and protagonist fighting? Why do characters with a common
goal wind up disagreeing about how to achieve that goal? Remember: each
character must act for valid reasons, based on valid motivations. The
villain can't be a villain just because the story calls for that
but must have his or her own goals, aspirations, fears.
So, the exercise: in 300 to 500 words, put
two (or more) characters
position of conflict. It should be reasonably clear to the reader (at
least to some extent) what motivates each character - of course, avoid
outright exposition (just telling us directly) as much as possible.
It is not necessary to resolve the
conflict; submissions here are
to be full stories. And it doesn't have to be a major conflict; it
be a minor conflict that interferes with some bigger goal.
When critiquing, pay attention to the
character motivations - are
credible? Too obvious, or too subtle? Remember - a good critique is
specific, not general!
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.