1. Toomanypens

    Toomanypens Member

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    Creating A Conflict

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Toomanypens, Mar 18, 2017.

    Ok, so I'm just trying to figure out how to correctly set up a conflict in the second act.
    So far we've seen the character leave home, become independent, and gain resolve in their life.
    The end of the first act comes when you realise she saw her mother die.
    The great thing, and the thing I love about the first act, is that you were sucked into this character and her life, without knowing why she is doing what she does. You are forced to just relate by guess the reason behind her actions, but at the end of the first act YOU KNOW, and suddenly you empathise with her tragedy.

    I love writing the first act :)
    Its all character development and set up for an enjoyable understanding of them.

    The thing I've been slamming my head against a wall with is the second act, where I define the conflict. I suppose parrt of my hesitation regarding creating conflict is that I do not believe in ARBITRARY conflict. I somehow really desire that the conflict be "fair and reasonable". Of course, conflict is never fair, that is why it is conflicting :p.

    Despite my troubles designing a good second act, I do think I am close enough to take an educated guess at it.
    Let me know what you think.



    The aura of doom - a period of time where things are not right and you feel something is off
    The instigator - something happens, like you notice something in a room that has changed place
    Aspects of the danger - you start to define or percieve the danger of what could go wrong
    Ill concieved first attempt - How injured the character gets after taking their first plunge
    Support - who helps them grow more capable
    Concerns - realistic fear and worry
    Courage - resulting in some kind of realisation that the character can do it

    Its meant to be something like that right?
    Then innto the 3rd act, right?
     
  2. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    I think the three Act structure is a hangover from another time, but still a useful guide. Essentially I see the first (after the inciting incident) and second Acts as try/fail cycles (each one must further the plot) that escalate to a crescendo in the third Act, when the MC finally succeeds. The fail part of the cycle might reach a particularly low low at the end of the second Act, the huge setback from which the MC must recover. For these cycles to work, the MC needs strong motivation to achieve something, go somewhere, escape somewhere, overcome something or whatever. That would be nearer the commercial novel structure than the traditional three Acts.
     
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    You should have conflict in the first act too. You should have conflict almost immediately. It doesn't need to be the big incline or pivot point yet, but if there isn't any conflict in the first act there's a great chance I put the book down long ago because there's nothing to read about. I haven't read your story obviously, and I'm not about talking conflict in terms of explosions, kidnapping or car chases, but I don't see what you could be developing if your characters don't have goals and obstacles yet.
     
  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I absolutely agree with this.

    In a first draft, my main concern is creating conflict in all parts of the story.
     
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  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Might be useful to make sure we're all using the same definition of "conflict"? I don't read a lot of theory, but I think I understand "conflict" as meaning, like, tension? It doesn't have to be good guy vs. bad guy, but there should be something that isn't right. Even if it's just the MC's dissatisfaction with the status quo or something?

    From that understanding, it's the tension that produces the plot. And I'm a firm believer in getting the plot started as close to the start of the book as possible.
     
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  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Well technically speaking a drunken bar fight is a conflict, tension not necessary.
    Though I am starting to see a pattern of what most think drives a story and that
    seems to be Conflict.

    I don't think screwing with your characters every three feet of the way really
    makes a story better. More B-movie Action like, with a plot to give it a spine.
    Nothing more. Hell I write Sci-fi/War and it has less conflict in it than a
    cheap romance novel. Guess I chose character development and substance over
    the stereotypical archtype for the genres. There is a point of having too much
    conflict, rendering things a little over the top and implausible.

    Considering that, how many have as much conflict in an average week that would
    even compete with a basic piece of fiction? There comes a point when the conflict
    becomes melodramatic.

    I have read a short Horror story about a guy recounting his murder spree in a
    dark poetic fashion. Hardly could say there was a conflict to it, but a grotesque
    vividly detailed recount of grisly events. No fight, no tension, just a disturbing
    bit of narrative of a deranged man that enjoys slitting women's throats and
    cumming on the wound, watching as they die.

    So it would seem there are other ways than conflict to make a compelling story,
    so there are other options available to consider if you think you can find another
    way to write a story.
     
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  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I assume there'd be tension that came before the fight, or even before the drunkenness, and then the tension is released by the fight. No?

    I wonder if you're using a pretty simplistic definition of "conflict"? Like, what's your story about. Even a cheap SF/War novel has a plot, right? What do your characters want? What's in the way of them getting what they want? That's conflict, in the sense I think the word is being used here.
     
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  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    @BayView

    No denial, but somethings can happen at random.

    Two guys get off work and go to a bar. They get drunk
    and a then some jackass provokes them into a fight.
    Up until the fight, it was just two guys having a drink
    after work. Pretty simplistic with not much of a build
    to a violent reaction conclusion. Relevant or not to plot,
    it could be in the two characters nature to have violent
    outburst from excessive drinking. But if they do not see
    it as a problem, then it is a non issue.

    Also I have read cheap romance with 10 fold the conflict
    that I have in my own works, and it has transcended into
    melodramatic and over the top.
    I did not say that conflict had to be as simple as parties
    with differing stances on a topic or in a battle.
    Only that there can be way too much of it, to the point of
    being less of an in story issue.

    Most conflict at its core is simplistic, just the means to
    a resolution are complicated by the nature of the conflict
    and the parties involved. The problem itself is not the complication,
    but a means to be an obstacle.
    Moving a cube up a mountain, without any modern means,
    could by definition be a conflict. Simple problem at face value,
    but a daunting feat to actually achieve.
     
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  9. Toomanypens

    Toomanypens Member

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    The first act I have is mostly ABOUT internal conflict about growing into an independent woman when there are no straight answers in the real world.
    But, there are smaller conflicts that make it real, for example in the very first chapter she is chased in a park, where she fights off the attackers.
    But it transitions afterwards into her trying to "think ahead" by taking up chess as a hobby, and she goes through her inner issues with life a bit, to sort of get herself unstuck from uncertainty. And meets a mysterious guy who sort of is foreshadowing what she will become, and goes on living her life, working etc, until one day she starts to admit why she is so driven to be an independent woman. Her mother died infront of her without ever having ever been her own woman.

    So I mean, that is a kind of conflict. Though more of a drama in how its expressed. Its actually kind of a loner story, like a castaway or something but in the real world where you are kind of just alone dealing with your life.

    Think of it a bit like when harry met sally, where the story starts with comparissons, through different phasess of life, slowly letting you see who the character truly is (the comparissons are made by who her classmates were, who her work colleagues are, who this mysterious guy she meets is, who the big bad is).
    There are little conflicts that help show who the person is, but it isn't the CENTRAL conflict of harry and sally getting together. Only this book isn't a romance, the central conflict is a big bad, that only sprouts up later in her life, for which she turns out to be the only one uniquely prepared to fight. The story is about what it means to truly decide to commit your life to a fight. Its meant to serve as deep introspection into what it means to do something great for the world. Showing that you need to be independent, strong willed, capable, and then when troubled times come, you feel worried about doing nothing, so then throw your hat in the ring.

    Um,
    I'm actually quite pleased with you guys' responses.
    You all seem to have a consensus that you want to keep the story tightly wound with tension all the way.
    And that you MIGHT not really want to make any JARRING introduction of a conflict, but would prefer it to organically evolve from what is already going on.
    And I think that is decent advice to keep in mind. It is like, you have to get that sorted first or you can't get into the tougher parts of it. So after looking through what I've got, there is definately enough conflict as you guys like to see it, so now the question is how do YOU introduce the central conflict. Assuming you have enough conflict bound into your first act to keep it a truly fascinating read.

    I like that you all discarded my "educated guess", shows its got no backbone. So maybe you are all kind of hinting at there needing to be a BACKBONE to the central conflict, and some kind of lead in.


    Well, the backbone for me would come from who we find out the character is, a victim of an explosion in a coffee shop.
    You don't discover this until the end of the first act, but when you do it puts into perspective why she might be more motivated to live her life than another girl.
    She also has unique insight into what the public winds up fearing.

    Hmm, maybe the best way to introduce the central conflict is in a DISCUSSION with a work colleague or something. Make it seem sort of innocuous but then have it build in momentum.
    Colleague: "have you seen this? This guy is blah blah blah, isn't that just crazy"
    MC: (stops as if caught by a realisation) "... uh... yeah, that is crazy..."
    It struck her like no one else, something about it was familiar, and unlike others she couldn't just brush it away.


    Yeah... that could work great.
    Fantastic :)

    But how do YOU do it, cuz I still have to really think on this and want to get my central conflict right.
    So, given that your first act has tension and enough conflict (assume you haven't created the big bad yet, cuz you are bringing the story to a boil, nice and slow to give it nice atmosphere and a very clear sense of the world and character) how do YOU best carve out the CENTRAL conflict?

    I worry all the time btw, by using my powder too soon,
    I like to keep my powder dry until I'm a few chapters out from the creshendo and then ramp things up to max then. That way all the best ideas pound away at the reader during the climax, helping polarise the story better and give it nice contrast (since over saturating the story can wash out a lot of the impact).
    I dunno, what do you all do?
     
  10. Toomanypens

    Toomanypens Member

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    Ah yes, I really like this. Bringing your focus to the motivation of why your character overcomes the pitfall at the end of the second act. Highlighting how strong that motive is...

    By the way, I use three acts as a guide, because I find it helps me pace the book out evenly. I'm obviously open to adapting and shifting concepts and their placement/purpose. Its just an artificial way of holding my own hand a bit so I don't get all overwhelmed and accidentally spill the best material into the wrong areas of the story. Its just a way of suppressing that "I wanna tell the story NOW" anxiety, and keeing disciplined enough to slowly mature the characters and ideas, so that the final impact of telling the story really wows.

    I also like what nelson said, where he says there is a later INCLINE. I like that wording... Incline...
    So maybe what I ought to do, is start making her task a bit STEEPER. Which could come from financial troubles... Like maybe the bar she works in goes bankrupt and her previous homeostasis is interrupted. Or maybe her bank fails? And it is a world event that puts lots of people out on the street initiating a great crisis. Leaving the world teetering on the verge of collapse? That might be even nicer than some discussion she can't let go of.

    In fact that makes me think of another character I wrote a while back, and maybe her change in the second act could sort of take some of the concepts I fleshed out there. Interesting... The other character was a news reporter in the zombie apocalypse who already hated his job, then has to just straight up survive, but during his survival story he saves a woman and slowly becomes a hero as he starts to focus on more than himself.

    Hrrmm...

    And then there are cave troll's ideas. Where he talks about similarities of romance, scifi, action, horror, in how they might satisfy an idea differently in order to avoid cliche. So that gets me thinking about how to SATISFY but by balancing some really fresh ideas for the genre. Which forces me to define the genre I'm even in. I'd say it is a drama, but I'd say it is more of a fictional biography, with a hint of a survival story. So, maybe its a bit like Pi or a beautiful mind.


    Hmm watching that made me realise that Limitless was a total ripoff of Pi.
    Same music, same plot idea, same theme of paranoia and genius.
    Geez.


    Haha, funny stuff.
     
  11. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    What's your story about?

    This is maybe where the logline idea will be useful... if we're going to borrow the three act structure from screenwriting, we may as well borrow the logline, too. So... if you had to describe your story in one sentence, what would that one sentence be?

    Then do the same for some of your favourite novels (preferably ones published recently, if you're planning to seek publication for your book), and then start reading and see how long it is before those novels get to the content of their logline. See how long it is before the real story starts.

    (I guess I should clarify - I took from other comments that you're writing a novel. If you're not, I'm not sure how much of this post applies.)
     
  12. Toomanypens

    Toomanypens Member

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    A victim of a terrorist attack defies expectations as she develops into a heroine, that fights and defeats(with her mind) those who would use her pain for political gain. (logline)

    It is indeed a novel.
    The starting act is meant to keep her past from the audience for a while, which represents how truth isn't told to us by people until we earn their trust, allowing you to see her origins without expectation. But by the end of the first act you know of her true past and how it motivates her in life, due to her seeing the fragility, fear, and randomness in her mothers death(it coming from a semi-random and unforseeable event).

    Imagine if you are watching batman begins, and this guy is motivated to change gotham, and is trying to do all he can within the law to help gotham, but nearing the end of the first act, you hear about a trial peripherally and are shocked to see him appear there with a gun to kill joe chill, you are like WHAT THE HECK. But then you find out he killed bruce's parents. It clicks ffor you in an instant that he might not be JUST, an upright guy trying to end crime in gotham, and GIVES WAY to his alterior persona. That simulates the kind of PERSONAL discovery you might have of bruce wayne, if you weren't told initially about his past. And so thhen when you see him go to the streets, get put in jail, go up a mountain to train with ninjas, you are fully on board with WHY he is so desperate.

    This novel isn't a super hero movie, its more like a biography, but has very light dusting of "super heroine" in how her character is structured. However it is a lot like Unbreakable, in that for most of the movie you don't exactly know that. You find out SLOOOOOWLY, which is my favorite kind of character reveal because it allows you to resonate with the character on their own personal merits before being told they are something more.



    The difficulty I have, is just how much I turn the screws, do I do it all the way where she fully becomes batman, do I only do half a twist where she could totally exist and it gives you insight into PTSD. I have those two options and have to decide which route to take and how to take it. Obviously all stories should manifest by the second act, so now its just a matter of really looking at how she faces the "villain". I'm not going to write the villain as entirely bad btw, she doesn't defeat him by violent means at all, she overcomes him by understanding him.

    "In the moment I know how to defeat my enemy I also understand him so well that I love him"
    "To defeat an opponent is to defeat yourself" "Either way, when you fight, you lose"

    But the villain is taking advantage of people's pain.
    So it is this very sombre, difficult, burden to defeat the villain, which teaches the reader about the real world.



    She immerges as both a heroine, and the reaper... Its... Tough, and thats why I wanna write her. Shes magnificent x)
     
  13. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    You're using a lot of movies as your models, and I'm really not sure that's a good idea. It's easier to maintain audience interest in a movie, with music and good-looking stars and lots of visuals and whatever. Books are different.

    Can you think of books you could look at and see how they handle this?
     

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