A friend of mine, via Twitter, asked me what my writing process was. I quickly discovered that describing my writing process in 140 characters or less would be impossible, so I decided to blog about it. If this is your first time on my blog, you may want to check out these previous posts about the writing process because I will be referring back to them:
Okay, you’ve got your inspiration and you have your Ah Ha Moment.” Now it’s time to flesh out that Ah Ha Moment and turn it into a story. It’s time for you to develop:
THE CONFLICT OF YOUR STORY
The Conflict: All stories need one thing: conflict. “A Day in the Life of M. B. Weston” just isn’t an exciting story unless it begins with something like: “I never knew putting diesel in my Camry would result in so much trouble.” (Yes, this has happened…) Conflict turns pages. Conflict creates tension in your reader. Conflict is the group of bones that make up the skeletal structure of your story. All stories, from flash fiction to novels, have one thing in common: a central conflict.
Before you can start writing, you must figure out the central conflict of your story. This conflict may change as you build your story, but you have to start with something. I’ve found that the best way to develop your conflict is to continue fleshing out your initial inspiration.
Let’s take a look at how I developed my conflict for A Prophecy Forgotten:
- Initial inspiration: I started with an image of a girl jumping into a river to rescue a boy.
- Fleshing it out: After getting bored, adding a blizzard, and making the river raging, my girl (Gabriella) hit her head during the rescue and woke up with amnesia.
- My Ah Ha Moment: The boy, Tommy, kept insisting she was his guardian angel, but she couldn’t remember her past to prove otherwise. Suddenly, BING! I realized she was his guardian angel, and that she became human and jumped into the river to save the boy’s life. Why? Well of course… Because Tommy was prophesied to save the world.
I started with this scene and developed it into a story 1) with a special operative guardian angel protagonist named Davian that 2) was actually about warfare, treason, and the attempt to brainwash a society in order to take it over. (Wait, you didn’t catch that last theme? You’d better read Out of the Shadows, then!)
I arrived at this new story by fleshing out my initial inspiration through until I hit on a central conflict for a story. Here are the abbreviated steps I took:
- Gabriella as Tommy’s guard, had to come from a world that wasn’t Earth. I knew I needed to develop that world. The details could wait, but I knew one thing. Someone in that world needed to know that Tommy had been prophesied to save the world.
- I knew if all the cherubians (what I called my guardian angels, click here for more info) knew about the existence of Tommy, 1) The story would get really boring and 2) the mornachts (my bad guys, click here for more info) probably knew about him too. That would make the story unworkable. (See how I’m using logic to figure out my story? Use logic for yours. Think things through. Make sure to write it all down.)
- Therefore, Tommy being the prophesied child needed to be a secret.
- Why would it be a secret? Oh boy. I had to really think about this one. If he was the prophesied “savior of the world” (the how didn’t matter at this point), then that implied the existence of a prophecy. But why didn’t everyone know about it? I decided on 3 things: 1) The prophecy would have to be cryptic. 2) What if the cherubians had stopped believing in the prophecies and had ignored/forgotten them? There’s that what if again. So important when it comes to developing your story. Note that my title is A Prophecy Forgotten. 3) The cherubians in the know would have to keep Tommy’s existence secret, both from the mornachts and from other cherubians since a secret shared with too many people doesn’t stay secret long. My conflict was starting to take shape into a “protect the kid no one knows is important, and keep it that way.”
- Note also that as I developed this conflict, I continued to rely on knowledge of human nature. As writers, our writing must imitate life. Therefore, our characters must behave realistically. Study humans. Understand how they behave This will make your writing realistic.
- If Gabriella was human, she was no longer guarding Tommy. Someone had to guard Tommy,especially since he was going to save the world…somehow. Hmmm, who would those who knew about the prophecy send to guard such a special child. He had to be the best soldier ever. With that, Davian became Davian. I figured he would be in enemy territory on a mission, and I needed to get him out–quietly. Picture me rubbing my hands together. The challenge! The adventure! This is why I love writing!
- At this point, I started getting bored again and wanted to raise the stakes. I had enough conflict for a small novella but needed something more. I needed a bad guy who wasn’t a mornacht. I needed a traitor. A traitor indicates treason, which meant that the government of Davian’s home country must be in danger. He he he. No, I’m not going to tell you who he is. You’ll have to read the book.
At this point, I finally had enough of a conflict to start piecing a story together: Protect the child. Save the homeland. And oh yeah, Gabriella is pretty cute, so let’s add a little love triangle in there to spice things up. I also realized that if I continued to flesh out the conflict, I was actually looking at a trilogy with one central conflict for the first book and another central conflict (Davian saves his homeland and clears the way for Tommy to save the world) for the whole series. At that point, I knew I had a long way to go, but I was looking forward to it!
That’s how I created my conflict, by:
- asking myself more what if questions
- filling in the gaps with logic
- raising the stakes (ie making it more exciting) when I got bored
If you have your inspiration, get out that pencil and paper and start filling in those gaps until you are comfortable with a central conflict that can carry your story. Remember, I have an accounting degree with no language arts background at all. If I can do this, so can you!
Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.