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Conflict and How To Fill Out The Conflict Box

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Conflict is the fuel of a novel. The Conflict Box, a simple four box diagram, is a useful tool to help writers pin down their protagonist and antagonist goals and how trying to achieve those goals bring them into conflict and thus provide the backbone of the story.

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Conflict and How To Fill Out The Conflict Box

  1. 1. CONFLICT: The Fuel of Your Story
  2. 2. Basic Story Dynamic The Protagonist (the character who owns the story) struggles with . . . The Antagonist (the character who if removed will cause the conflict and story to collapse) because both must achieve their concrete, specific . . . Goals (the external thing they are each trying desperately to get, not necessarily the same thing)
  3. 3. CONFLICT: EXERCISE ONE What does your protagonist want most? (Must be a concrete, external thing) Do not confuse goal with motivation!
  4. 4. CONFLICT: EXERCISE TWO What does your antagonist want most? (Must be a concrete, external thing)
  5. 5. CONFLICT: EXERCISE THREE What is stopping your protagonist from getting what he/she wants most? What is stopping your antagonist from getting what he/she wants most?
  6. 6. The Conflict Box A way of diagraming your protagonist, antagonist, goals, and conflict. You can have conflict because: Protagonist and antagonist want the same thing. Protagonist and antagonist want different things, but achieving one goal causes conflict with the other’s goal.
  7. 7. Conflict Box Protagonist Conflict Protagonist Goal Antagonist Goal Antagonist Conflict
  8. 8. The Conflict Box Fill the conflict boxes out one at a time. I’ve found it’s an interesting exercise during workshops. We do it right after the one sentence original idea is written down. The first problem for many is simply identifying their protagonist and antagonist.
  9. 9. The Conflict Box Remember that goal is not motivation. Often people put the motivation in the goal box. A goal has to be tangible. Something the reader knows has either been achieved or not. Once more, the key to filling this out is to do one box at a time, ignoring the other boxes, until complete.
  10. 10. Conflict Box: Same Goals Agnes and the Hitman •Agnes wants to keep her house, which she bought from Brenda. •Brenda wants to steal back the house she just sold to Agnes Keep HOUSE Get HOUSE Back Protagonist Conflict Antagonist Conflict
  11. 11. Conflict Box: Conflict Someone is trying to steal the house from her! Someone won’t let her steal the house back! Keep HOUSE Get HOUSE Back A G N E S B R E N D A GOAL CONFLICT
  12. 12. The Conflict Box You have inescapable goal when one person’s goal is causing the other person’s conflict.
  13. 13. Conflict Box: Same Goal • To see if your conflict is inescapable: Draw a line from Agnes’ goal to Brenda’s Conflict. If Agnes is causing Brenda’s conflict, you’re halfway there. • Then draw a line from Brenda’s goal to Agnes’ conflict. If Brenda is causing Agnes’ conflict, you have a conflict lock. Keep HOUSE Get HOUSE Back Someone won’t let her steal the house back! Someone is trying to steal the house from her! A G N E S B R E N D A GOAL CONFLICT
  14. 14. Conflict Box: Different Goals Lost Girls KILL whoever is killing young girls KILL the daughters of the men who betrayed him Protagonist Conflict Antagonist Conflict •Gant wants to find out and kill whoever is kidnapping and killing young girls. •The Sniper wants revenge for being betrayed.
  15. 15. The Conflict Box Notice in this case that the Sniper wants revenge. However, you can’t put revenge in the goal box because revenge means different things to different people. We can’t see “revenge”. We don’t know when “revenge” has been enacted. We can see the manifestation of his revenge when he kills or kidnaps the daughters of the man who betrayed him.
  16. 16. Conflict Box: Conflict KILL whoever is killing young girls KILL the daughters of the men who betrayed him Another Girl is killed, kidnapped. Someone is closing in on him, trying to stop him. •Gant wants to kill who is kidnapping and killing young girls. •The Sniper wants revenge for being betrayed.
  17. 17. Conflict Box: Conflict KILL whoever is killing young girls KILL the daughters of the men who betrayed him Another Girl is killed, kidnapped. Someone is closing in on him, trying to stop him. •Gant wants to find out who is kidnapping and killing young girls. •The Sniper wants revenge for being betrayed.
  18. 18. The Conflict Box When I run a weekend workshop with a handful of writers, we start with the Original Idea. Boiling the idea down to one sentence, which we write on a whiteboard. Then we move on to the Conflict Box. This takes a while. We have to identify the protagonist. The antagonist. Their goals. What’s stopping them. And whether we have conflict lock between the two.
  19. 19. The Craft Of Writing You start with an Original Idea. You figure out your protagonist, antagonist, and core conflict (conflict lock.) Remember to stay open-minded to possibilities. So now you . . .
  20. 20. Research Research your characters. Research your setting (place & time). Research your plot. Research produces possibilities for story.
  21. 21. Narrative Questions: Characters Who is my protagonist? What is his goal? What is his motivation for achieving that goal? Who is my antagonist? What is his goal? What is his motivation for achieving that goal? How does this bring them into conflict? Does my story collapse if I remove the antagonist? If I remove my protagonist, what happens? What is at stake?
  22. 22. After Original Idea and Conflict Box We move into story. There are numerous elements to story: Plot Character Point of View Setting Dialogue and much more. All covered on other slideshows.
  23. 23. PLOT
  24. 24. For more free slideshows on writing, survival, history and other topics, go to: www.bobmayer.com/workshops
  25. 25. How to write the book How to be an author www.bobmayer.com/nonfiction “A book to inspire, instruct and challenge the writer in everyone.” #1 NY Times Best-Selling Author Susan Wiggs "An invaluable resource for beginning and seasoned writers alike. Don't miss out." #1 NY Times Best-Selling Author Terry Brooks
  26. 26. “In Who Dares Wins, Bob Mayer gives us a unique and valuable window into the shadowy world of our country’s elite fighting forces and how you can apply many of the concepts and tactics they use for success in your own life and organization.” Jack Canfield: Co-creator Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Success Principles “Success in life—as in combat—has always demanded depth of character. Who Dares Wins reveals what it takes for you to move into the world of elite warriors and how their training developed that Can Do spirit and Special Forces ethos of excellence.” Lewis C. Merletti: Director United States Secret Service (retired), Former Sgt 5th Special Forces Group (Vietnam); Cleveland Browns Executive Vice President & COO
  27. 27. New York Times bestselling author, graduate of West Point and former Green Beret. He’s had over 80 books published across an array of genres, including the #1 bestselling series Green Berets, Shadow Warriors, Time Patrol, Area 51, and Atlantis. He’s presented for over 1,000 organizations during three decades of writing full time. If you’re interested in his weekend intensive workshop or having him present for your group, email him at: bob@bobmayer.com www.bobmayer.com

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