Five Ways to Create Nail-Biting Internal Conflict

What do character, theme, and tension have in common? They are all results of genuine internal conflict in a story.

What is internal conflict? As opposed to external conflict which involves characters battling antagonists, internal conflict ensues when a character wars against himself. Or, perhaps more usefully, it can be summed up as the process of making difficult decisions. Of course, not all decisions are interesting, nor will all interesting decisions generate tension or develop characters, but some will.5_Ways_to_Create_Nail-Biting_Internal_Conflict

The Five Steps to Internal Conflict

I’ll pull an old writer’s adage out of the playbook and parade it around for a moment: show, don’t tell. Most writing students have repeatedly heard this mantra in their journey, and they’re going to hear it many more times. I don’t want to go off on a tangent and start expounding the importance of “show, don’t tell,” because that subject could (and has) filled many books. But I need to mention it because it’s the groundwork for the five-step strategy I’ll be describing. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brandon Miller
Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

How to Achieve Multiple Levels of Conflict in One Scene

By Kate Flournoy

Conflict is often viewed as two forces that clash and cause tension, but it’s much more complicated than that. Conflict is engaging because it prevents a character from attaining a desirable goal, which readers can empathize with because of the struggles in their own lives.

Perhaps the character is a little boy named Billy who wants a cookie, but the jar is out of reach. This presents an obstacle, but it’s a less effective use of conflict because it’s not dichotomous.How_to_Achieve_Multiple_Levels_of_Conflict_in_One_Scene

The Essence of Conflict Is Contradiction

Readers need two sides to root for, not just one character and an obstacle. Nobody can sympathize with an inanimate object.

Suppose Billy’s sister, Sally, also wants a cookie, and only one is left. Mom told Billy he could have the cookie, but Sally didn’t eat her cookie yesterday. They both have a legitimate claim.

We might be tempted to stop here. The obstacle must still be surmounted, but now two characters are vying for the cookie and readers can relate to both of them, so they’re torn about who to cheer for. The conflict is more complex, yet is it enough?  [Read more…]

How Advice from a Chess Grandmaster Can Transform Your Writing

One of my favorite classes that I took at a homeschool co-op during high school was a chess class taught by a local grandmaster. I learned many different chess openings, position tactics, and endgame tactics, all of which improved my chess strategy.

One day the grandmaster was explaining a game he won against another high-ranking chess player. He pointed out that one move in particular was important because it served multiple purposes. His words stuck with me:chessmasterpost

“In chess, a mediocre move only does one thing. A good move does two things at once. But a great move does three things at once.”

This advice not only changed how I play chess, it transformed the way I write.

Pinned by the Single-Minded Approach

Often, when we begin writing a scene, we want to accomplish one specific goal—to have a character explain a massive plot twist or the villain enact a stage of his evil plan. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

Make Your Protagonists Hate Each Other in Four Easy Steps

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a writer is to allow all your protagonists to get along with each other.

Many of us are inclined to do this because we love our characters. The protagonists are all working together toward the same goal, right? So why shouldn’t they have a harmonious relationship?

But this habit keeps writing from being great—and kills the story.protagonsitspost

Last summer, I read a Christian fantasy work which bored me to tears for a simple reason: the four or five protagonists always got along and never had any conflicts that weren’t immediately resolved with an apology. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.