Sunday, September 3, 2017

Where's the Conflict?

It’s about fifteen years ago. I’m in the shower, washing my hair and I’m thinking, write what you know … hmmm … I know about stuttering. How about that? I had started a creative writing course and it was time to attempt a short story. Perhaps I could write a story about a woman with a stutter who has to speak in public – a school girl maybe, with an assignment. Okay, good. But, so what? Our week's lesson was on creating conflict. So where was it? She doesn’t want to speak? Well, obviously she doesn’t. But who cares? Er … there is something she can gain by speaking – a prize. Ah, she’s won a competition and she must recite her wining slogan/poem at a press conference/on TV - there'll be cameras - terrifying. So why do it? The prize is a lot of money … or tickets to see her favourite band ... So, she goes through with it and it’s unpleasant, but worth it. The End. Where’s the conflict? Er, maybe she DOESN’T go through with it … I was on to conditioner by now, leaving it in my hair for a few minutes, as you do ... I know! She asks her friend to pretend to be her! Her friend gives the speech, collects the tickets and hands them over! ... SO WHERE’S THE CONFLICT? ... Her friend wants something in return for doing the speech. Something our protagonist doesn’t want to give up. Hmm, that's interesting. What do teenage girls care about? Teenage boys. There’s a boy, see. He’s cute. Both girls like him. Our girl has to introduce him to her so-called friend and encourage a date ... Conflict! What will she choose? To brave humiliation and do the speech herself, but still have a chance with the guy? Or will she give up the guy because she can’t face public speaking? 

What I learned from the exercise is that creative writing is about giving a protagonist a choice and giving the reader enough information to speculate on what they would do - that's the hook that makes them want to read more.

It was a productive shower, because my short story about Siobhán and her best friend Lisa got an A. If you’ve read Beverly, you’ll know that it is a grown-up adaption. Beverly has to do a presentation at work in order to win a lucrative contract, or she faces a bad reputation in her industry. When she recruits her best friend Ella for help, it comes at a high price.

Every time I start writing something new, I play where’s the conflict. What techniques to you use?


  1. A character with a choice and the chance for the reader to consider the options sounds a good way of developing a story and keeping the reader interested.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Patsy :) Glad you agree.

  3. Great idea, i am really inspired by your article... I love it

  4. I really enjoyed reading this, thumbs up to you, you really did a great job