After a week of banging my head against a brick wall with this new synopsis I have finally – with the help of the perspicacious Dr Jax and the wonderful Michelle Styles – figured out my problem. I simply could NOT get my characters to act without exaggerating my conflicts. And I had to exaggerate the conflicts in order to give them motivation to act. I was STILL getting them to act in the way I wanted them to.
The reason is that they were still passive. They were not taking action. And the reason for that is I have been thinking about my stories in terms of scenes. I think, okay, need a love scene, put one in here. What about a ‘save the cat’ moment here. And black moment here. And when I think about the scenes I want, I try and move my characters towards the scenes, which is NOT letting them act.
It’s like a play. The play opens with the characters on stage. They do the scene, the scene ends, the stage goes dark. Then the next scene opens. How have the characters got there? Where are they going? The scene ends, the stage goes dark. What happens next? We don’t know and neither do I!
I have been treating my stories like this play, opening with a scene, then jumping to the next scene etc, etc. Episodic in other words. Great for a play, not so great for a story.
So I’ve cut it right back. Concentrating on the most essential conflict – my hero wants to control and so has to learn to let people go, my heroine needs freedom but has to learn it’s okay to lean on someone. So what happens when a guy like this meets a woman like this? Forget flirtation scenes, think about action. The external conflict puts him in the situation of having to look after her so what does he do? He’s all about control so says she has to come with him. Her reaction? She’s all about freedom so get lost buster. What is the consequence? Does he force her to go? And if so, what action does she take in response? And right there is where the conflict is driving the story through the actions of the characters. No need for exaggeration because their reactions are based on their essential conflict. Who knows when they’ll need a love scene – I’m not sure – but it will be because one of them makes a decision and the consequence of that is making love.
Dunno if this makes sense to everyone or if everyone is goin ‘well, duh, I already knew that!’. But this is certainly why I have been having so many problems with conflict. I have already got a plan for the new story based entirely on action, reaction and consequence. Hopefully it’ll make a good synopsis but if not, it’s certainly been a HUGE learning curve to take!