How to Review Your Story Scenes for Conflict

horses jumping hurdles

Are the hurdles in your story growing harder?

As discussed in “6 Steps to Story Development,” a story needs conflict. In fact, without it you have no story. So let’s take a closer look and see how you can make sure you’re developing the conflict in your story.

James Scott Bell, in his book Conflict & Suspense, defines conflict this way: “a clash between at least two incompatible sides. One of those sides must be personal, that is, having the ability to exercise conscious will.”

At the heart of conflict are your character’s passion and goals. In review, here are 3 questions I posited in “Story Development”: [Read more…]

How Do Plot and Scene Work Together, Part 2


What goes into a scene? All the same things that go into plot: characters, goals, conflict, and setbacks, on a smaller scale.

Scenes require action, and action comes through your character’s attempts to meet her ultimate goal (aka objective). A setback occurs when the conflict encountered obstructs the character’s immediate goal (scene goal).

In my previous example, the protagonist’s objective was [Read more…]

How do Plot and Scene Work Together? Part 1

Many writers struggle with plot, including me. We envision the end product and wonder how we’re going to get there. But much like a chef, our work has basic elements. The chef has meat, veggies, dairy, and spices. He combines these to create a delectable, unforgettable dish. The writer has characters, goals, conflict, and setbacks, and blends them to create a riveting (best-selling, we hope) novel.

At its very basic, plot is characters attempting to reach goals, but who meet with conflict and setbacks along the way. Whether you are a writer who [Read more…]

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 12 Conflict

Conflict. In real life, we try to avoid it, but a story without conflict is like a latte without coffee.

In part 3, we discussed your characters’ passions and goals. Start there to look for potential conflicts. Your story may contain several levels of conflict. She may struggle internally with her own fears as she reaches for her goals. Additionally, your heroine must come into conflict with the bad guy, if there is one (an external struggle). The conflict must be plausible and legitimate, not contrived.

I find Hollywood primarily sticks to external conflict; however, “Captain America” is a movie that offers conflict on multiple levels. Before he becomes Capt. America, Steve Rogers struggles internally and externally with his size. His frustration is made obvious by his readiness to fist fight and not give up. This portrays an internal and external struggle in one scene. Once he becomes Capt. America we see the internal conflict with the showbiz role to which he’s been relegated and the external battle with Red Skull.

Your character’s conflicts create a journey for her. As your story progresses, so must the conflict. Take her from point A to point B to point C and so on, meeting obstacles along the way. Each obstacle brings a setback or a victory, and change in your character for good or for bad. If she is the same in the end as she was in the beginning, she comes off as flat and less memorable.

Most stories end happy—the conflict meets a positive outcome when the good gal triumphs. But we all cope with struggles differently and not everyone comes through life’s experiences a better person. Wherever your character ends up, it should be believable and consistent with the rest of the story.

Take your characters on a journey of conflict.

Identify the conflicts in your favorite movie. Are they external, internal or both? Leave your comments below.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

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