Monday, July 25, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS: Wading Into The Deeps—Conflict And Drama


A Tsunami Storm--notice the person standing there? 

There is no doubt that JR Ward is a successful author. But did you know, at one point she found herself without a contract and having to reinvent herself as a writer?

JR had some success in writing romance but she had a problem with setting a strong black moment, personally didn’t like conflict and so had some problems inserting it into her stories. She says, “I was trying manufacture specific endings and forcing characters into places I thought they should go—as opposed to just letting them do what they’re going to do and getting out of the way.” (Oh, I have so been there and done that!)

Once she lost her contract she had some serious thinking to do. JR started began to read books on craft and even went so far as to take books she enjoyed and deconstructed them chapter by chapter. Her focus was on how to identify, magnify, and resolve conflict between characters. Granted, she ended up tossing much of the formal stuff and *rules* out of her writing process and plots but the studying changed the way she looked at her writing.


JR’s story resonated with me, especially conflict. I’m one that doesn’t like a lot of drama and conflict in my personal life and will go out of my way to avoid it. It’s called looking for and maintaining a peaceful environmentgive me lots of sunshine and butterflies.


This is a good thing for my personal life but bad for my stories. 





Conflict and drama are necessary components for a good story. I’m learning that big and messy is okay as is upping the stakes by by adding some hefty thunderstorms of adversity. There’s nothing wrong in pulling out the darker emotions or putting characters in emotional or physically precarious situations. I haven’t gotten it all down but I've been practicing and I’m getting more comfortable in the emotional deeps.

I understand what JR Ward is coming from when she says: “I used to hate conflict. Now when I write, I wallow in it…going dark was something I was steered away from. Now that’s where I’m most comfortable—because I know the inevitable redemption at the end burns all the more brightly for the contrast.”

What about you? Are you comfortable in depths with emotional conflicts? Dramas and the dark places? Or are you inclined to explore those conflicts with humorous situations and laughter?

What are some things you’ve had to overcome to make a better and more satisfying story? 



  • .This week's guests OVER COFFEE: Wednesday, Stephanie Rowe and Friday, Donna MacMeans

22 comments:

Mason Canyon said...

I'm with you. I don't like a lot of drama in my personal life, but enjoy reading stories with a good bit in it. Maybe if I read enough about the drama and conflict others have, I can avoid more in my own life. One can hope. :)

Mason
Thoughts in Progress
Freelance Editing By Mason

Carol Burnside aka Annie Rayburn said...

I can so relate to this post. Personal drama? Ah, no. But give me more, lots more in an exciting read and I'm happy. As a writer, I struggle with being 'mean' to my characters, but throwing more at them to overcome means a more interesting story, so a big ol' meanie, I must be!

Nice blog you have here. :)

Tonya kappes said...

I"ve tried to write dark and deep, but it comes out light and humorous...so I stick with my voice and try to make the situation deeper with laughter/humor. I just published my first mystery, SPLITSVILLE.COM. I dare call it a cozy, because it's paranormal, and humorous, but there is a woman immature sleuth...so I couldn't even do mystery dark:))

Hilary said...

Hi Sia .. I can read drama - but would prefer not to have it in my personal life.

Writing .. I just admire anyone who can write a book - now I've been around authors a while .. just amazes me the amount of work required ..

That picture is amazing ..

Enjoy the week .. Hilary

Jo said...

Hi Sia, I agree with Hilary, writing a book is fantastic in itself.

I loved the pic, where on earth did you find it?

Ken Weene said...

As an author I prefer to write about the inner storms rather than the massive confrontations between characters. Still the drama is there for life is full of sound and fury and art - for all the idyllic moments - mirrors that upheaval.

Elle J Rossi said...

Good morning, Sia,

Honey, this may be my favorite post yet. I love everything you've said. I, too, used to hate conflict in my personal life. You like sunshine and butterflies. I like soda pop and lollipops. Over the past couple of years, I've realized that conflict is essential to growing. Thankfully, that's translated over into my stories. Like, J.R., I now feel, the darker the better. Though I still have a problem with holding back, wondering what others will think. I often wonder what my stories would be like if I just went with it. Maybe someday I'll have the courage to do just that.

And talking about deconstructing another's work: Recently I read Afterlight and Everdark, the first 2 books in The Dark Ink Chronicles by Elle Jasper. OMG is all I can say. Talk about dark, talk about the most incredible sexual tension, talk about vibrant characters. I'm almost to the point of pulling out the highlighter and re-reading every single page! If you've not had her as a guest, may I suggest her? I'd love to know more about her process.

Kat Sheridan said...

Good morning, Sia. LOVED that tsunami photo! And I am all about the dark and dramatic. It's exceedingly cathartic to fling it all onto the page and be an utter drama queen. I think a lot of times it's how I work out my own fears. I have a character right now who is exceedingly claustrophobic (like me). I already know at the end that he's going to have to confront that in order to save the heroine. I'm already having nightmares about that. But I know that when I get to the point of writing it, it's going to be real (because I KNOW those feelings) and writing about him triumphing over his fear may allow me to overcome my own.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia,
I LOVED this post. A good writer friend of mine (a RITA nominee) and I were having coffee the other day crying over our wanting to have butterflies and rainbows in our lives. That we tended to shy away from using conflict when others were telling us to wallow. We came to the conclusion we needed to trust that we could save our characters in the end. Trusting yourself is the biggest gift you can give your writing. Cheers~

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm an even-keeled kind of person, so I hate conflicts in my personal life, but I have no problem writing about them.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Howdy everyone. Been gone most of the morning. Loved hearing from everyone on their use of conflict and torturing their characters!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hilary and Jo, I believe I found the picture on a weather site. I thought it was awesome, too. The Sunshine and Butterflies was from a card I had.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Carol! I enjoyed your post with Mason.

I think the consensus is we all like an even keel in our personal lives but love the drama and conflict in our reading and movie choices.

I have a problem too being mean to my characters, Carol, lol!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Elle, thank you. Can you tell I've been thinking a lot about it? And I agree that a certain amount of conflict in our lives is normal and necessary for growth. I've noticed, in my long marriage, when conflict rears it's ugly head it usually means one has grown and the other needs to catch up, or signifies a problem that needs addressing.

I haven't read Elle Jasper. I'll check it out and for sure issue an invitation to her. Thanks for the heads up, Elle! Hugs my friend!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I have a phobia about ants in mass. I don't think I could really write a character caught up in that sort of situation. I have used ants crawling on a character. Oh yah, I know the feelings there. *shudder

You have some wonderfully dark dramas in your stories.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Nan, I understand completely the desire for sunshine and butterflies, especially after the year we've had.

I think you hit it on the head, though, it's a matter of trust. Sounds strange to say, doesn't it? But we have to be able to trust ourselves to let go and let our characters go. Experience the world you've created, a world they live in and face the troubles, dangers, highs and lows, and find their solutions and their happiness.

For all that we want a peaceful smooth life, rarely do we get life on those terms. We have to face and solve the issues. Why are our characters any different?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Ken, inner storms offer quite a bit of conflict as well. There are many psychological thrillers out there that do it well and blend the inner and eternal conflicts for a great read.

Clarissa Draper said...

I really enjoy putting my characters in hot water. However, I love the suggestion of taking our favourite novels and dissecting them. I'm going to try that.

Helen Ginger said...

While I steer away from it in my own life, I love it in my character's life. In the book I'm working on now, I hold out on letting the reader know why there is such conflict in the character's life, then once the tension is built, I let them in on it.

Talli Roland said...

I'm SO not a fan of conflict in my life, but I do love me some good conflict when I'm writing! Some might even say I'm a little OTT... :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Helen, intriguing. It will make the reader really curious. I love those ah, moments. I wanna read it, me me, pick me...

~Sia McKye~ said...

And a fine job you do with it, Talli!