Conflict Again or Keeping Your Poker Hand Secret

Wow, this is great guys! I’m loving your questions and comments. Doing these posts focuses me too ’cause I’m still learning along with the rest of you.

Right, so, I read my ms last night and thought about my poor old heroine. Interestingly, and luckily for me, I found I had the bones of a great conflict for her already in there, but I just didn’t develop it enough. Must have got distracted and in the end, couldn’t see the wood from the trees! So what’s her conflict? Well, it has to be strong. It has to be the kind of conflict that would affect your whole life. I guess internal conflict is the emotional baggage we all drag along with us and everbody’s got it. My heroine’s baggage is a mother who wanted a pretty little girl but got a tall, skinny geek with a stammer. H’s mother pick pick picks at her, telling her to smarten up, pretty up, how being interested in unfeminine things will mean she’ll be lonely all her life, how she’ll never be as sucessful as her brother. How she’ll never measure up. So now my H has a reason to be ashamed of her geekiness – ashamed because her secret fear is that perhaps her mother is right and she will never find someone who will want her for who she is, that she will never measure up. Naturally this fear will be realised because that’s what you have to do to get the emotion pumping, and she will be forced to either get brave or give in to her fear. And that, my friends, is internal conflict. I still have to run this by Anna at M&B (want to get it right) but I think it’s pretty strong.

So you’ve got your conflict sorted. Great. Now, how much do you give away in that vital first chapter? I would say it’s a bit like playing poker. You’ve got a great hand but you don’t want to give it away all at once because you have to save something for later. I mean, you want the reader to keep reading, right? So you hint. Like a trail of breadcrumbs (sorry, mixing my analogies here), you give the reader a little bit to intrigue, for them to keep reading a bit more. A hint could be along the lines of: “He was never going to end up like his parents.” or “If only her relationship with her mother was better.” So now you’ve got your reader thinking, ‘so what’s the deal with his parents? She’s got a bad relationship with her mother? Why?’
Does that help? I mean, it’s by no means a hard and fast rule. I’ve got a wip where the internal conflict is right out there in the second chapter and the rest of the ms is how the h/h resolve it.

Again, the crucial part of this is the strength of the internal conflict. It has to be life changing in order for the h/h to make the decision that they can’t be together. I mean, if it’s just because her job is important to her, that’s not strong enough. But what if her dying mother’s last wish was for her to follow her dream of being a plastic surgeon? And then what if the hero pops up and tells her she has to make a choice between him and the vow she’d swore to her dying mother? Can she live with having the hero and breaking her vow to her mother, or will she lose her one chance at love because of the promise she made to a dead woman? That’s what I mean by strong internal conflict. It’s not dependent on the heroine’s job, but on her own desire for two goals that cannot be reconciled.

Okay, now I’ve got my heroine’s conflict sorted (hoping!), I’d better go write it! Anything else you want to ask or discuss, please go right ahead and post. I’m liking discussing this too.

8 thoughts on “Conflict Again or Keeping Your Poker Hand Secret”

  1. You write like I write. We don’t want to stop writing and we shouldn’t. Words turn to ideas and roll around in my mind constantly.

    I’m so glad you commented…sometimes I think I’m obsessed…it’s nice not to be alone!

  2. You’re definitely not alone, Jan! I am obsessed too. I’m sure my family is sick of me and my constant writing. And yep, I’m always getting ideas for new stories. And for me that can be a problem – the new one is always more exciting to me than the one I’m supposed to be finishing!

  3. Hey, Jackie, your heroine’s conflict sounds great, original too.

    I think your points about the internal conflict being a massive deal are spot on. It’s gotta be something that really torments and threatens the emotional stability of the characters. (I’m all for a bit of tormenting the characters, after all, they do it to us, right?!)

  4. Oh, thanks Lucy. I’m still doubting whether they’ll let me keep it. They made a big deal of how your parents shouldn’t dictate your life but aren’t we all products of our parents? Anyway, in case my poor H sounds like a doormat, she isn’t. She’s quite a stubborn little thing when pushed.

    Yep, I love a bit of character torture. Especially the hero. Mmmm, nothing like a tortured hero. I believe I may have mentioned that before… 🙂

  5. Parents shouldn’t dictate your life??? Maybe not dictate, but shape? Oh yeah. I’d have thought that would be a key conflict thingy. In any case, if by ‘they’ you mean the MH eds I don’t reckon they’ll like my wip. Whoops. Had better wing an email to my ed post haste.

  6. This is great, Jackie. So helpful.

    Know that I’m not qualified to comment, but I think you have a terrific and believable conflict worked out for your heroine.

    Parenting (particularly bad parenting) has a huge impact on our aspirations and on the people we ultimately end up being.

  7. Jackie – I reckon it all sounds fab… but what’s this about parents not dictating life? Oh oh… I’ve spent a whole day planning conflicts and now I’m seriously worried. Can you explain exactly what they said… and Lucy… let us know when you get a reply to that email!

  8. If anyone has any update on the ‘parent thing’ being an okay MH conflict I’d be very interested to hear.

    Please let us know what the feedback as in case we’ve all got to re-write!!!

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