Tag Archives: conflict

Under Attack: Human Interactions

Dear Mr. FedEx:

When you climb out of your truck brandishing a large cardboard tube, my dog will feel attacked. Her hackles will raise, she will bark and she will definitely stand at attention, waiting for your next move.

When that bonehead move happens to be swinging your makeshift weapon and poking it repeatedly in her direction, she will charge you. Hello, she is under attack.

Yes, it is your fault–100%–that she does not like you on her property.

Lest you disagree, let’s look at this from a different angle–that of my garbage man who (questionably) provides a doggie treat to her before stealing my trash. He doesn’t attack, he bribes. She barks when his truck pulls up because she barks at every truck, but she doesn’t face off with the nasty trash man and lunge at him. Why? He doesn’t attack.

Taking this one step further, when the Schwans truck rumbles down the street, she races down the driveway and barks. Sound familiar? Yeah, same pattern. Now pay close attention…he gets out of the truck, meets her on the edge of the property (her collar prohibits her from going further) and coos sweet nothings in her direction while holding his hand down for her to sniff.

End result? She bounds around him, still barking, and escorts him to the door.

Let’s review:

  1. Three men in big, rumbly trucks: FedEx, Garbage, Schwans.
  2. Three different approaches: attack, bribe and befriend.
  3. Two different outcomes: counter attack and acceptance.


The mother of the Dog Under Attack

Dear readers, how do you respond to events and people in  your life? What is the outcome of your interactions? Would you like to change your modus operandi for a more favorable result?

Curious minds want to know!



Medicate Your Manuscript

It’s a week after my surgery, and I’m still feeling the side effects.  My jaw aches, my incision itches, my stitches pull and I look like I was mugged due to swelling and bruising.  When I add in the upset tummy from my medications, I’m a walking, talking mess.

In terms of real life, these side effects stink worse than road-kill skunk.  But when applied to writing, they receive serious kudos.

If you read the warning labels on medications, you often note a list of dire consequences along with a disclaimer that “your doctor has deemed the benefits of this medication to outweigh the bad.”  This statement implies a choice.  The Good Doc has chosen this medicine for a specific reason.  In taking it, we choose to put up with the repercussions (side-effects).

Sometimes we don’t have a feckin’ clue what we’re getting ourselves into.  We think we know.  We imagine we do.  We pretend the really bad stuff won’t happen to us.  We believe we’ll walk away from the experience better off.

And we might.  Or, we might not.

That, my friends, is the beauty of writing.  We are doctors prescribing certain actions and medications for our patients.  We force our characters to choose.

Do they walk down the dark alley toward the noise or run in the opposite direction?  Do they get in the car with their bestie even though Bestie had a fifth too much to drink?  Do they make that phone call, go to that game, kiss that girl?  Turn left instead of right?

Every choice is fine, as long as we allow our characters to suffer the consequences of their decisions.  In short, side effects to character actions are crucial in creating tension and moving the plot along.  And only through suffering can the ultimate benefit be reached.  Recovery isn’t easy.  Not in real life, nor in a great book.

Today I challenge you to medicate your manuscript.  Make your characters choose a path.  Throw in a nasty side effect or two and watch them suffer, persevere and win.  Despite the discomfort.  Despite the conflict.  Despite the pain.

Do you make your characters choose their actions and hold them to it?  How do you make them suffer?  How do you relieve their pain?  Do you allow your characters to make the wrong choice?  If so, how and why?

Curious minds want to know.

Series Writing is Like an Umbrella

This post is inspired by a fellow scribe tagging me in a “Writing is like” challenge.  It’s also inspired by the crummy weather that continues to plague my little corner of the world.

It’s been pouring on our little prairie–again.  Over the past weeks, I’ve witnessed people pop open umbrellas while they go about their business.  The thin, waterproof fabric repels rain, keeping the user dry and happy.

Not a planner, I usually get caught without so much as a hood to cover my head.  By the time I reach my destination, I usually look like a hamster that fell in the toilet.

This non-planning/pantster mentality applies to my writing.  Outlines scare the bejeebies out of me and I don’t stick to them anyway.  But an umbrella, now that might work.  I’m still outside in the elements, trekking my merry way from point A to point B, but without contracting Drowned Rodent Syndrome. 

Since writing a series is much different from penning a single title, I knew I needed some sort of framework.  One massive story arc to cover the series and little story arcs to encompass each individual book.  You can read about it here if this is new to you.

I drew my big arc on the top of my page.  Along the bottom edge, I drew lacy arcs from the starting point to the end of my series.  Hmmm, it looked suspiciously like an umbrella.  To complete the effect, I sketched in spokes that radiated from each point to the middle of the top arc.

Yep, definitely an umbrella top.

Series Umbrella In Progress

On each spoke, I penned a key phrase summing up the resolution of each book.  I titled the mini-arcs with one word conflicts.  Everything tied nicely together.  Except…

…the handle. 

While my umbrella top summarized my over-all premise–inciting incident, MC’s progress and ultimate conclusion–it didn’t really address the antagonist.    My umbrella was incomplete, because even though I had an overarching premise, a physical antagonist was still necessary.  One central evil that propelled my MCs forward.  A villain to defeat, if you will.

This upped the stakes and gave me something to focus on.  Now when I write, I’ll be able to visualize exactly where each story must begin and end, how the conflict relates to the over-all arc and what central conflict my MCs are up against.

I’m still not writing to an outline.  Each chapter book within the series will be allowed to pants it’s way onto my keyboard.  But, thanks to my umbrella, I won’t get halfway through my journey and realize I started out for the grocery store when I really should have been on my way to a photo shoot. 

And we can all picture what that would look like if I got caught unaware in a storm. 

What tricks do you use to keep your writing focused? 

Verbal Warfare: do you engage in conflict?

Conflict is good in a novel.  However, I’ve been finding more and more of it on the internet.  Blogs and forums are filled with differing opinions.  Which, in and of itself, is good.  It allows us to learn other perspectives and understand things outside our limited views and experiences.

What isn’t good is when discussion crosses the line.  At times, I quietly lurk because I’m afraid of taking a shot to the face for writing the wrong thing.  It’s like a bad game of Nerf darts–one where you don’t know if your allies are your enemies.

In my real life, I wear many hats.  Almost all of them are in a conflicted arena.  I try very hard to impress upon my clients that they don’t have to agree.  They simply need to listen, understand and respect the other side.

I do this because I have learned the only universal truth in the world: there is no such thing as truth. 

Oh, we each have our own truths and we vehemently hang onto them.  But the reality is there are more opinions than there are people. 

In this respect, the writing arena has many truths.  One for each writer, and all based on personal experience and moral convictions.  Yet we continue to ask loaded questions, looking for the “right” answer.  And others continue to answer these questions with their own truths. 

Most often, people are respectful.  Yet every once in a while, a huge conflict arises.  The mob mentality takes over and we end up shooting darts at each other.  Feelings get hurt, things are said that can come back and haunt us and we leave communities we once loved.

I would like to offer a gentle reminder for myself and others.

  • Respect the other perspective.  This doesn’t mean we have to accept it.  We just have to accept that there are more versions out there than the one we currently believe in.
  • Listen and validate.  It  never hurts to say, “Hey, I can see your point.  I’ve never thought of it that way.”  Again, this isn’t agreement.  It is simple respect.
  • Agree to disagree.  “Those are all valid points, however, I still believe XYZ.” 
  • Hold a conversation, not a war.  When we exchange ideas, we grow as people–even if we never change our minds.  Just listening to and learning from others gives us depth and enriches our lives.  Warfare takes away from that.
  • Remain professional.  Seriously, this is vital for those of us commenting as writers or other industry professionals.  Do not engage in verbal warfare.  Do not name call.  Do not attack individuals.  Ideas are separate from the people who voice them.
  • Don’t let the conflict elevate our emotions.  If we find our hearts racing and our fingers itching to shoot off a response, we need to walk away and save our comments for another time. 
  • Lastly, don’t ever say, “It’s just common sense.”  There is no such thing as common sense.  What seems universal to one may be completely foreign to another.  That doesn’t make others stupid, it just means we all come to an issue with a different set of life experiences.

I don’t know if you’ve visited Layinda’s blog, but she’s a great one to ask questions that really make me go hmmmm.  I love reading her perspective and the responses she gets.  Better yet, everyone who comments there already seems to know that their truth isn’t the only truth.  It’s a refreshing break from the snippiness I’ve seen elsewhere in the cyberworld. 

Another favorite blogger who handles herself and her controversial topics well is Michelle.  She always prefaces a loaded post with a reminder that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and that we need to be mindful of those differences.  I love how she does this. 

And, in the words of one of my favorite AQers, “This is just my opinion.”  It may or may not be right, but it works for me.

Do you engage in conflict or do you avoid the hot-button topics altogether?  How do you handle yourself when you read a comment that makes your blood boil?  Have you ever left a community/blogger that has too much warfare?

Also, do you know of other great blogs that respectfully discuss difficult topics pertinent to the writing world?