Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writers: How Internal Conflict affects Character Arch

Happy Wednesday!

I’m writing this from the perspective of a romance writer so my examples will include a hero and a heroine. The examples work the same for any character: hero, heroine, mentor, villain, sidekick, etc. It depends how deeply you want to develop the secondary characters in your story whether you give them an internal conflict or not.

When I first started writing for publication I found the concept of internal conflict, external conflict and character arch hard to grasp. I had sent my first manuscript to a critique service and it came back with “needs more internal conflict”, but it didn’t go on to explain what that was exactly. I searched and found many explanations until one clicked.  

Everyone learns differently, and an explanation that works for one person might just confuse another. If you know of a good explanation, please add it in the comments or post a link.

First, a brief description of Internal Conflict vs. External Conflict.  

INTERNAL CONFLICT is in the character’s mind. It is his and his alone. No other characters know of it unless he explains it to them, but usually he doesn’t think it needs to be explained to others, it’s private. It is usually an idea, a belief, or a goal so deeply set that sometimes the hero isn’t aware of it. It is a result of life experiences and expectations. The conflict comes in when he is faced with a situation that questions, or challenges his belief, idea or goal.
EXTERNAL CONFLICT is what happens outside the character’s control. It is something that challenges his belief or prevents him from reaching his goal. It could be an employee who embezzles, threatening the hero’s business. It could be a storm that keeps him from getting the serum to an isolated town in time.

Simple Examples:

Shannon believes her career will be complete when she is the top pastry chef in Manhattan.
Brad wants to get voted as mayor of Little Town so he can clean up the government corruption of the current mayor’s term. 

Tom wants to build his IT start up and sell it for billions of dollars so he’ll never have to live in poverty again. 
Lisa wants to find a committed, family oriented man to settle down with and build a family. 

(these are quick synopsis and I’m sure they are full of holes, but that’s the fun of writing a story, to make things work).

Shannon meets Brad, sparks fly. Shannon is so close to becoming top pastry chef in Manhattan. She is conflicted. If she has a relationship with Brad what can she do in Little Town that could compare?
Brad meets Shannon, sparks fly. Brad is committed to cleaning up the government of Little Town. He is conflicted because Shannon’s life and career are in Manhattan.

Tom meets Lisa, sparks fly. Tom needs to concentrate on his business but he’s drawn to Lisa. He is conflicted. Can he romance Lisa and still build his business?
Lisa meets Tom, sparks fly. Lisa soon figures out that Tom is a workaholic. She is conflicted. Can she give up some of what she wants in a man to have the man she wants?

The arch is the hero’s journey through the story. At the beginning he has one set of beliefs or one particular goal, by the end of the story his beliefs/goals have changed. In other words, he has changed, his thinking has changed, his perception of his goal has changed. He is a different person than he was at the beginning.

How Internal conflict determines character arch:

Shannon accepts that she’s had her time in the spotlight and maybe opening her own bakery in Little Town would be a creative outlet for her. She changes her belief that she has to be famous to get satisfaction from her career.
Brad knows that corrupt government is every where, he could do his part to end it in the city as well as in Little Town. He changes the perspective of his goal.

A confirmed bachelor, Tom changes his belief that he needs to give 100% of himself to his business to make it successful, he can trust his partners to share the load, he learns that he wants a relationship with Lisa, he wants a family.

Lisa changes her ideas about finding a true family man. She see’s that some men are driven to make the most of their career and she’s grateful that Tom has ambition and will provide well for their future family. She sees a change in him as he spends less time in the office because he wants to be with her.

In a romance, there is always a happy ending, so these couples can compromise and make their goal, beliefs and ideas work together. In other genres there are other options; Shannon and Brad could have a long distance relationship, Tom and Lisa could end the relationship before they get in too deep.

More complex examples from one of my books, A DADDY FOR LUKE.

Price reduced this week just for you.
Sandy’s wants to get a promotion at her job so she can better provide for her son, and she vows to never get involved in another disastrous relationship. Men always take advantage of her, she doesn't trust her judgement of a man's character.  
David’s needs to do a book signing for his friend then get out of Center City before anyone remembers who he was before he left town. If he runs into his past, it could ruin his future.

How they change/Character Arch

Sandy gets to know David and learns that he had a similar heartbreak to her own, and that he is a mature and caring man (unlike her previous boyfriends) who loves her and her son. She trusts that David would never take advantage of her, she changes her perception of men and now trusts her judgement of David's character.
David offers to read his book to Sandy because she is legally blind and despite his need to leave town quickly, he decides to stay a few days because he’s attracted to her and feels a little sorry for her. As he gets to know her he sees that she is completely capable of taking care of herself and her son. She can even read his books on a digital reader. He changes his perception of people with challenges. And when he runs into his past... oh darn, I can’t tell you the rest, it would give the ending away!

Please add your comments and insights into internal conflict, external conflict and/or character arch.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Too much stuff? The road to a writer’s oasis.

I have too much stuff.
I know it is a direct result of living in the same place for over twenty years. Moving often helps weed out stuff. Staying put—especially in a home with a garage, an extra room or basement, and/or a shed—makes it easy to keep stuff. I keep too much stuff. I keep it in a room that was built on the back of the garage when the house was designed by the previous owner. It makes a perfect office and studio. It’s big. I have a place for all my creative stuff.

I’ve spent many years painting in watercolor. I have a place for my drawing table and all my art supplies and books. I got into scrapbooking and I have room for a table to work on and shelves for all my supplies and books. I’ve played around with other art media and crafts my whole life. I’ve collected a lot of stuff along with those interests.

Ten years ago I got serious about writing. I bought a vintage oak desk and I now have a bookcase full of writers craft books and all the other stuff that goes with a writing career.

You’re a collector if...
My mother once said, if you have three of something, you’re a collector. I don’t have any large collections. I have too many little collections of stuff. Vintage bellows-type cameras, vintage and antique books, animal figurines, vintage kitchenware, and—of course— paperback books. Then there’s the printouts, ideas torn from magazines, the boxes electronic stuff comes in. Nuf said.

I’m working on becoming as paperless as possible. Filing on the computer: important emails, writing articles. My music is on my computer, why do I need all those CDs? I subscribe to Netflix, why do I need all those DVDs?

George Carlin knew all about stuff
My first encounter with the psychology of stuff was Gorge Carlin’s famous monologue A Place for Your Stuff. At that time I probably had a fraction of the stuff I have now. Even so, I recognized the signs of having too much stuff:

You gotta take care of your stuff.
You gotta have a place for your stuff.
That’s what life is about, tryin’ to find a place for your stuff!
If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.
A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. 
At first my stuff was stored in closets and cupboards, but then those got full. Bookcases and bracket shelves went up to hold more stuff. Stuff went into boxes and ended up in the garage.

...maybe you could sell some of your stuff. Have a yard sale, have a garage sale! Some people drive around all weekend just lookin’ for garage sales. They don’t have enough of their own stuff, they wanna buy other people’s stuff.
 Full text of Carlin’s monologue
I’ve done some yard sales. I paid for space at an antique mall for over a year and never sold enough stuff to pay for it. Both endeavors didn’t seem to make a dent in the amount of stuff I had.

If you find one treasure at a yard sale, you’re hooked. I have fond memories of going to yard sales with my dad. The sight of a yard sale or local flea market still makes me reach for the signal indicator. But I resist.

Wasting time on stuff
A few years ago I was reading a book about organizing and sorting one’s stuff. The author said the more stuff you have, the more time you spend on it, moving it, sorting it, piling it, tripping on it, getting it out of the way.

So I decided not to waste any more time moving my stuff around. I ignored it. I wrote and didn’t look beyond the glow of my desk lamp. The stuff rebelled and multiplied and generally got in my way. Open surfaces became cluttered, then obscured. But I always knew where something was. I knew the archeological strata where I would find it.

Let me clarify here, this is only in my office/studio. The rest of the house is neat; after all, I have the office/studio to stash stuff when it starts to clutter the house.

Maybe I’m a hoarder?
There’s a history of hoarding on my dad’s side of the family. Nothing as drastic as what you might see on TV. Just an unnecessary amount of plumbing, motorcycle and car parts in my dad’s garage, and an unnecessary amount of electrical, motorcycle and car parts in his brother’s garage.

I’m sick of my stuff.
I finally reached my limit. I’m going to clear out the room. I have designed a room where I can go to write and paint and it will be like an oasis. A sanctuary from the world. I got an app for my iPad Mini, Design5D, and designed the room. I’m going to get Ikea shelving units and only put the stuff I really need or cherish in the cubbies. I know the plan so well in my head that sometimes when I open the door I expect it to be already done.

Instead, I open the door and am overwhelmed by the job: moving everything out. And where will I put it? In the shed? Saturday I donated three bags of stuff to the annual rummage sale in town. I’ve been working for three days and I have about 15% cleared out. It still overwhelms me when I see all that I still have to clear out. I just do it. It’s my stuff and I need to control it, not let it control me.

I was going to post a before photo but I just can't be that honest right now. 
Here is some of my inspiration: (oh, I also collect peacock stuff.)

Do you have problems with clutter and stuff? How do you deal with it?

Number of boxes/bags packed and stored: 25
Number of boxes/bags donated: 3
Number of boxes saved for yard sale: 3
Number of kitchen size bags tossed: 3

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Spending summer vaca at Camp NaNo

I’ve joined Camp NaNo for July.

I have one friend in my cabin. Thanks for inviting me, Jenn. And six other writers, from all over the world, whom I’m looking forward to getting to know.

I’m not starting a new novel this month but doing revisions. I found out that when doing revisions you count 1 hour of revisions as 1000 words. This way you’re able to chart your progress the same as those who are putting down new words. So far I’m at 6500 words.

I’m having fun revisiting this novel, FOR RICH OR RICHER. When I first started writing seriously I wrote several novels one after the other. Then I decided I should probably study the art of novel writing. So I have several novels in various degrees of doneness. Two I have since finished, polished, had edited and published. HER SCOTTISH CEO and A DADDY FOR LUKE. The later is from my series COTTONWOOD COUNTY CHRONICLES. The book I’m revising during Camp is also part of the CCC series.

The Synop:Josie stops to help a good-looking man, obviously unaccustomed to crutches, maneuver through the hospital cafe door. She works her way into his life until he discovers he really does need her help. She finds him attractive, but more importantly, she finds being with him is a good way to hide from her past.

 Allen finds Josie weird, quirky, and oddly attractive. But she gets in the way of the architectural job he needs to work on. Asking her to leave, several times, seems to fall on deaf ears. By the time she becomes indispensable to him and his job, he learns her secret. This time, when he asks her to leave, she does.