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The Conflict Box by Bob Mayer (updated 2016)

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Writing a novel and getting it published: That's your goal. And nothing
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The Conflict Box by Bob Mayer (updated 2016)

  1. 1. CONFLICT: The Fuel of Your Story
  2. 2. What Is Conflict? •A serious disagreement or argument. •A prolonged armed struggle. •An incompatibility between two opinions, principles or interests. •(v) Be incompatible or at variance, clash. •Try to have conflict at two levels in each scene.
  3. 3. 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) • Do not confuse goal with motivation!
  4. 4. The Protagonist • Must be someone the reader wants to identify and spend time with: smart, funny, kind, skilled, interesting, different. • Must seem real; flawed, layered, blind spot. • Must have a unique voice. • Must be in trouble, undeserved if possible, but usually not random (unless you’re very good-- aka Lee Child). • Must be introduced as soon as possible, first is preferred. • Must have strong, believable motivation for pursuing her external and specific goal.
  5. 5. The Protagonist •We often empathize with a reluctant protagonist. •We must see the spark of redemption in a negative protagonist very quickly. •The protagonist’s blind spot can be their fatal flaw, but at the very least brings about the moment of crisis. •Usually, the protagonist, as she is at the beginning of the book, would fail if thrust into the climactic scene.
  6. 6. CONFLICT: EXERCISE ONE •What does your protagonist want most? (Must be a concrete, external thing)
  7. 7. The Protagonist •Drives the story. •You have one for one main story line. •Does not have to be the hero/heroine or even good. •If she fails, what is the result? (Stakes) •Is the person on stage in the climactic scene, defeating the . . .
  8. 8. The Antagonist •Must be someone the reader respects (fears): smart, funny, kind, skilled, interesting, different. •Must seem real; flawed, layered, blind spot. •Must have a unique voice. •Must be in trouble. •Must be introduced as soon as possible, even if by proxy. •Must have strong, believable motivation for pursuing her external and specific goal.
  9. 9. CONFLICT: EXERCISE TWO •What does your antagonist want most? (Must be a concrete, external thing)
  10. 10. The Antagonist • You have one. • Drives the plot initially. • You must do the antagonist’s plan and it should be very good. • If removed, the plot collapses. • Should be a single person so the conflict is personal. • Is the person on stage in the climactic scene, fighting the protagonist because . . .
  11. 11. Their Goals Conflict •The reader must believe both will lose everything if they don’t defeat the other. •Their goals are difficult to achieve because of external barriers, primarily each other. •Their goals are layered, usually in three ways . . .
  12. 12. Goal Layers •External: The concrete object or event the character needs. •Internal: The identity/value the character is trying to achieve via pursuing the external goal. •Relationship/communal: The connections the character wants to gain or destroy while in pursuit of the external goal. •People want to achieve their goals because of . . .
  13. 13. Motivation •The reason your character needs his or her goal. •Everyone has an agenda. •Every character has a primary motivator; Victor Frankl’s ‘One Thing’ (logotherapy). •Some motivations stem from key events in a character’s life.
  14. 14. 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?
  15. 15. The Central Story Question •Will the protagonist defeat the antagonist and achieve her goal? •When the reader asks that question, the story begins. •When the reader gets the answer, the story is over. This question leads us to the . . .
  16. 16. 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.
  17. 17. Conflict Box Protagonist Conflict Protagonist Goal Antagonist Goal Antagonist Conflict
  18. 18. The Conflict Box-Same Goals from Agnes and the Hitman
  19. 19. Conflict Box: Same Goals •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 Protagonist Conflict Antagonist Conflict
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. Conflict Box: Inescapable! Someone is trying to steal the house from her! Someone won’t let her steal the house back! • 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
  22. 22. The Conflict Box-Different Goals from Lost Girls
  23. 23. Conflict Box: Different Goals KILL whoever is killing young girls KILL the daughters of the men who betrayed him Protagonist Conflict Antagonist Conflict •Gant wants to find out who is kidnapping and killing young girls. •The Sniper wants revenge for being betrayed.
  24. 24. 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.
  25. 25. 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.
  26. 26. Original Idea Conflict the Fuel of Your Story and the Conflict Box Plot I: Research and Narrative Questions Plot II: Outlining Plot III: Narrative Structure Character Point of View Write It Forward: From Writer to Bestselling Author Writers Conference Guide (Free eBook) Three P’s: Platform, Product, Promotion Writers’ Block and Rewriting How to Write the Query/Synopsis Planning for NaNoWriMo Success Bob Mayer’s Workshops, Seminars & Presentations Your Creative Process: How You Write The Present and Future of Publishing for Writers Writers Workshop and Retreat ON WRITING SLIDESHARES
  27. 27. For More Information click on covers The Complete Writer is four books at discount in one bundle.
  28. 28. New York Times bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret, and feeder of two yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He’s had over seventy books published, including the #1 bestselling series Time Patrol, Area 51, Atlantis, and the Green Berets. Born in the Bronx and having traveled the world he now lives peacefully with his wife and labs. Sort of. Free books below available HERE www.bobmayer.com
  29. 29. Writing Scenic Workshop •An intense, on-premises workshop focusing on idea, conflict, story and the ever- changing business of publishing. •At our house on Scenic Drive in Knoxville, TN •Most importantly, this workshop focuses on developing your creative process as a writer. •Led by Bob Mayer and his wife, Debbie. •We’ve worked with everyone from #1 NY Times best-selling authors to novices writing their first book. •Limited to four people per workshop. This workshop can also come to you if you have four interested writers. For schedule contact bob@bobmayer.com

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