#NaNoWriMo: Dirty Trick #3 – There’s always a conflict.

Over at House of the D, De muses about the nature of conflicts and scenes in a story.

Any scene with NO CONFLICT = DOOOOOOM.

Two characters fall happily in love? One of them has a fatal disease. A mother and daughter quit arguing? The mother has called the men in white coats to come pick up the daughter and wants to keep her peaceful until the girl’s sedated. The villain invites the hero in for tea? Strichnine, my friend. Strichnine.

Remember: any degree of “happily ever after” that occurs before the end of the story is doomed!

First of all, that’s some pretty damn good thinkin’ going on right there.

Second AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, this is a great engine for getting us more WORDS, people!

But we have to be careful. In order to take advantage of this Dirty Trick, we have to do something we should never do during NaNoWriMo: go back and look at the stuff we’ve already written.1

What we’re looking for in this case is any scene where there’s no real conflict: everyone just gets along pretty well, or no one’s trying to convince anyone of anything, or it’s just an info dump. Something. Doesn’t matter. We are NOT going to read the whole story to find those scenes. We’re going skim.

Skim v. skimmed, skim·ming, skims

4. To read or glance through (a book, for example) quickly or superficially.

Now, I can sort of cheat on this, because while I don’t use chapter breaks in Adrift, I do separate each scene with this:


… so I can just search for that, glance at the first line of the scene that follows the -=-, and ask myself:

What’s the conflict in that scene?

If there is any kind of answer to that question, I move on.

If there is no answer to that question, I then say:

Ah ha, then what was secretly going on in that scene?

And maybe I’ll add one line at the end of the scene where one of the protags calls someone up after the other guy leaves and says, “It’s me. He believed it.” or whatever.

And THEN, I have a whole other scene I can write in which we find out more about what was really going down in that previous scene, and really screw the characters some more.

You characters will want you to be kind. Ignore them.
Your characters will want you to be kind. Ignore their pleas.

And that’s it. More words to write. More story stuff happening. Not just plot, but plotting. Aren’t you just nefarious?

That’s it; short and sweet.

Get back to work.

Have fun.

1 – Yes, I have to reread everything in my first draft, while I’m writing it, to do the podcasts. Yes, I’m taking a stupid risk. Do what I say, not what I do. #goodparenting

8 Replies to “#NaNoWriMo: Dirty Trick #3 – There’s always a conflict.”

  1. I needed this post today. My characters just got to a happy scene where all is going right, and don’t want to continue on because of that big nasty car accident that’s about to come their way. And I felt kind of bad putting them into that car when they just finally found their collective happiness. I was trying to find some way around that ugly mess.

    Now I feel better about killing some of them.

  2. I just can’t come away from your blog without something useful.

    Today it’s that tiny, animated graphic that was likely just a funny afterthought to you, but to me it explains everything. I set out with this really messed up protagonist but I can’t make her look as bad as she is. She wants me to paint her in this good light and that’s boring.

    Crap. Every time I want to quit you give us something else useful. Damn you. ;-)

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