About Me

Hi! I'm Becca Fitzpatrick, the author of the internationally bestselling HUSH, HUSH saga. When not writing, I'm most likely running, prowling sale racks for shoes (stilettos, please!), or enjoying one of life's many little indulgences: Ice cream, Veronica Mars, losing myself in a book, painting my toenails, or simply daydreaming. I do my best to update this blog as frequently as possible with news on upcoming events, tips for writers, and all things pertaining to my books.

17 July 2012

Writing Conflict

First thing this morning, I went outside to water my garden.  It's not a very big garden.  Keep that in mind when I tell you that there were six (SIX!) bunnies inside it merrily eating away.  After I chased them off, I started thinking about one of my boys' favorite picture books, MUNCHA, MUNCHA, MUNCHA by Candace Fleming. My boys used to giggle every time I read it out loud.  At first I thought they were laughing at the way I would boom, "Muncha, muncha, muncha!" But they finally told me the truth: they laughed because it was hilarious to watch the bunnies and Mr. McGreely fight over the garden. In the story, both the bunnies and Mr. McGreely want the same thing: to eat the tasty vegetables. Who wins? You'll have to read the book to find out.  But I will say this: great story conflict happens when the main character and the main opponent want the same thing.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, as I've started plotting my next book. Often, writers and readers alike say, "The middle of the book sagged."  I think saggy middles can be avoided by creating a suspenseful tug-of-war between the protagonist and antagonist.  I'm still learning how to execute this plotting device in my own stories, but the more I study other books, I think there is great storytelling wisdom in driving the protagonist and antagonist toward the same goal. 

As an example, I'll fall back on one of my favorite stories: Romancing the Stone.  (You know by now just how much I love this movie, right?)  In the movie, Joan Wilder wants the treasure map so she can exchange it for her sister, who is being held by bad guys. Jack, her main opponent, also wants the treasure map.  Only, he wants it because he wants money to buy a boat and sail around the world.  We can also throw in the bad guys here.  They want the treasure map because they, too, want to be filthy rich.  Anyway, back and forth Joan and Jack go--each desperately trying to maintain control of the treasure map.  I won't ruin the rest of the story for you, but the middle of the movie is anything but saggy as our hero and heroine struggle to reach their goal.

If you're looking for a way to put tension into your stories, I suggest trying this device.  I'm using it right now, and while I'm only in the planning stages of my next novel, giving my heroine and her main opponent the same goal is building the foundation for lots of exciting conflict and character growth.

Happy writing!



Daniel Noyes said...

Hi Becca. Thanks for the post. I don't think I've really considered this aspect of hero/villain conflict the way you have stated it. It definitely makes sense. I wonder what your thoughts are about whether having the same goal only works when they want a physical object such as a map, or if this device can work in other situations. Thanks for posting.

Becca Fitzpatrick said...

I think it works in other situations, too. Here are a couple examples: In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peta both want to win the Hunger Games. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth both want to find someone worthy of their love. In court stories, both sides want to convince the jury that their side is the "truth." I hope this helps!

Abigail said...

Great insight into conflict, Becca. Thanks for the post. I am a young, that is: new, author and I'm excitedly dissecting all my favorite stories to get at what makes them so good. This is certainly an idea to consider as I create my stories.

brook said...

um, i might be having garden box envy.