The How to Think Sideways course has been keeping me really busy. I’m still working on the post for my favorite top-ten writing sites; I haven’t had as much time to work on it as I’d like. Of course, there’s also been the small matter of bellydance performances, palgwe forms to learn and demonstrate so that I can receive my second degree black belt in taekwondo, a trip to the emergency room, then follow-up with multiple specialists to determine that my heart is healthy, and finally, oral surgery to relieve an abscessed tooth. And that was just April. All while still trying to keep up my writing .
We’re still in the prep-work stage of the HTTS course, so there’s not much to show here. But it’s been really great for me; I’ve gotten a much better handle on the story I’m trying to tell and on it’s characters. The story is a modern urban fantasy where a young transwoman (Sally), battered and beaten almost to death ends up on the doorstep of an immortal sorcerer (Rafe). The ideas started to go much better when I realized that Sally was the protagonist and that Rafe was not only not the protagonist, he was the antagonist. Which had been the problem of the story all along. There was no antagonist. This is a problem pretty much all of my fiction has had to this point, which is why I don’t have any fiction published.
This is definitely one of those “there is no bad guy” stories, where both the protagonist and antagonist are doing what they believe is best for everyone involved. They also don’t realize exactly who is opposing them until the very end. It’s a lot easier for me to write conflict now, now that there’s not someone who’s a terrible person. I don’t write bad people well; I tend to see the best in everyone. I tend to play the “Yes, but” game too much. Yes, the King of the Winter Court stole lands from the Summer Court, but they were his lands to start with. I tend to do this for every character in the story, in every story.
But now I’m learning finding it extremely helpful to turn the question around and apply it to every one. Yes, you saved the protagonist, but you’ve compounded her problem by adding medical bills she can’t pay. Yes, your mother has a key to a possible treasure, but that key has only been passed from mother to eldest daughter and she refuses to accept you as anything other than her son.
So this is my challenge to myself and to y’all: apply the “Yes, but” to every character in every scene. Use it to look for ways to bring more conflict into your story. And, as always, tell us about it in the comments. Or tell us about other methods you use to increase conflict. I’m always eager to try out new ways of generating great scenes for my story.
[Image courtesy of JD Hancock via Flickr Creative Commons]