"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Conflict and Motivation by Sherry Roseberry
To my way of thinking, an excellent story plot is a blend of idea, characterization, conflict, motivation and emotion. Any writer worth her salt strives for a perfect mixture. Although, many fail to reach that end.
Some brew wonderful concepts that even Steven Spielberg would be proud to call his own. But, their characters are unsympathetic.
Others write characters to die for, however, the main threads and final wrap up are a little weak.
We’ve all read books that have deep story-lines where we did not bond with the heroine and we wanted to slap the hero. Above all, great characterization is what sells books.
Most of us see conflict and motivation as a sheer cliff we must climb. It is not paramount that a writer comes up with something so complex and intertwined that even she/he has a hard time keeping track of everything. You know the ones....
The heroine’s granddaughter married the hero’s grandfather’s butler who stole the crown jewels and shared the stash with his bride instead of the ex-employer, who is in reality a baby stolen from the gypsies because the Duchess was barren and now, unbeknown to the hero, he is next in line to be the new King of the Gypsies and is about to be kidnapped. Phew! Unless of course you’re hoping to win the Pulitzer Prize.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Use something simple. Example: she hates small towns because she’d been teased/outcast all her life/ridiculed by small minded people/has gone without. She lives for the adventure of being a big city news correspondent.
He has had it with the hustle and bustle of life as a big city doctor. He feels people have lost their compassion for their fellow man. He finds his haven in Small-Town America.
Bingo! Conflict and motivation.
To make things interesting, throw in a few twists and turns such as she inherited the town from an eccentric uncle. She decides she wants to raze some old buildings and replace them with a money-making shopping mall. He’s already in the process of turning the classic structures into a clinic and claims to have bought them from her Uncle before his death.
It’s like cars. Think of plot lines as the nuts and bolts that hold the body together. Conflict is the engine. Characterization is the chrome-bedecked chassis and motivation the super-duper, steel-belted, road-hugging tires. Now, you have the car of your dreams. Well, almost. You need one more element to make it run. Fuel. And fuel is the emotion. Without it, this baby isn’t going anywhere. With it, she’ll purr like nobody’s business. And an editor will gladly throw money your way. To top it all off, you’ll keep those readers engaged to the very last page, dying for more.