Showing posts with label writing conflict. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing conflict. Show all posts

The Foundation of Every Children’s Story

 


 While every story starts with a good idea, that’s not enough to make a good story.

Your idea, while possibly the cornerstone of the creation, is only part of the foundation. There are other elements needed to make a fully developed story.

To give you an example of this, a protagonist wants to take guitar lessons. He does and becomes a good guitar player. Your message is to show children they can do the same.

Why would someone want to read about a character taking lessons to learn to learn to play the guitar or any other instrument?

But suppose something stops the protagonist or gets in the way of the him learning to play.

This gives the story idea substance. It gives it conflict.

Below are the basic elements that create a story foundation.

1. The idea.

As a children’s ghostwriter, clients come to me with a number of ideas. But, they’re just ideas. They’re not stories.

An idea could be a child wants to become an astronaut.

Again, this isn’t a story. But it is a key part of the foundation of a good story.

2. The problem, the conflict.

Every children’s fiction story must have a problem or obstacle that the protagonist has to overcome.

The conflict drives the story.

According to Now Novel, “conflict is at the heart of all stories.” (1)

Going back to the guitar scenario, suppose the protagonist has started and stopped a number of hobbies or sporting activities. Now his parents refuse to invest in a guitar and lessons.

This creates a problem for the protagonist – how is he going to get a guitar and afford to pay for lessons. Or, if he’s a younger protagonist, how will he convince his parents that this activity will be different. He’ll follow through with it.

3. The struggle.

There needs to be a struggle - the protagonist needs to attempt and fail at reaching his goal.

In children’s writing, three is the general rule for attempts. On the third try at achieving his goal, the protagonist finally gets it. He’s triumphant.

If the protagonist gets what he wants in one try, it doesn’t drive the stakes up. It’s too easy.

A reader turns the pages to follow along with the struggles. It’s the struggles that strengthens the connection between the protagonist and the reader. This makes the reader feel like the final victory is his too.

4. Growth.

The story has to be about more than just the initial idea. It has to be about more than just incidents in a story.

Writing coach Suzanne Lieurance notes that, "an incident is simply a series of actions and occurrences in a character's life. But these things don't change the character."

By the end of the story, the protagonist needs to have developed or grown in some way.

- Maybe he becomes wiser.
- Maybe he learns to stand on his own two feet and overcomes what he must to accomplish what he wants.
- Maybe he learns it’s okay to be different.
- Maybe he learns there’s more to him than he thought.
- Maybe he figures out there are things more important than riches and power.
- Maybe he learns the importance of friendship.
- Maybe he learns the importance of being honest.

This list could go on and on.

Character growth is essential to a good story.

5. Be subtle.

Your story should be written so that the reader will see for herself the message you want to convey.

I’ve seen many story endings where the reader is hit over the head with the message.

Let the message be subtly weaved throughout the story. And, know that the reader is savvy enough to get it.

These five steps are the foundation to your children’s story.

Keep them in mind when writing yours.

Sources:

(1) https://www.nownovel.com/blog/kind-conflicts-possible-story/



Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can connect with Karen at:
LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter https://twitter.com/KarenCV
Pinterest  https://pinterest.com/KarenCioffi/



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Internal and External Conflict

By Stephen Tremp

"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph” - Thomas Paine

Authors love to incorporate conflict not only into their stories, but into the very fabric of their characters. It is conflict that drives the plot forward and engages the reader. The more adverse the conflict is, or a state of opposition, the more rewarding the victory is to the overcomers.

According to Gillian Roberts in You Can Write A Mystery, the fundamental element of all drama is conflict, a clash between good an evil. Life vs. death. Law vs. disorder. There are internal and external conflicts and personality conflicts with people of different goals, hostile witnesses, uncooperative employees, or frustrating red tape. Murder is often the “crime of choice” as it is the ultimate offense and “therefore produces the most absolute and unequivocal conflicts.” But conflict can manifest in numerous other less-violent forms, as long as it wrongs the accepted norms of a society or individuals. Gillain suggests the two sides of conflict be equally weighted (easier said than done). The protagonist should be the mental equal of the antagonist. Otherwise, it’s an unfair fight or a rout rather than a difficult quest and the tension would be reduced.

Internal conflict, or the conflict that takes place within the mind if a character, and external conflict, the struggle against some outside force, can be deciding factors as to what separates a good story from a great story. The protagonist has to meet a challenge and conquer it. But it’s hard if not seemingly impossible. He’s repeatedly foiled time and again along his journey, but must press forward. There is also conflict between individuals and their interactions, whether they are friend or foe. Characters can have differing goals. There can be hostile witnesses or frustrating beaurocracy and red tape.

Conflict also offers the author the opportunity to weave into the plot twists and turns that will keep the reader up late at night, turning the pages. When the protagonist, antagonist, or other characters overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, the author can take advantage of the opportunity to bamboozle the reader by shifting the plot and make an unexpected sharp left or right turn.

Utilitarianism, or conduct directed toward promoting the greatest good for the greatest number of people, provides an excellent opportunity for an author to implement the element of internal and eternal conflict. Throughout history, men and women in positions of authority, during exceedingly excruciating circumstances, have had to make utilitarian decisions that affect countless lives and history itself. During World War II, Allied decision makers had to sacrifice entire towns and cities in order to take one more step toward winning the war. Dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to save literally millions of American and Japanese casualties would be another extreme example.

In my book Breakthrough, Chase Manhattan’s utilitarian decisions may seem to be on a much smaller scale. However, as the Breakthrough trilogy progresses, we see a Pandora’s Box that is opened and the key is the discovery of wormholes. Indeed, a seemingly innocent breakthrough that can benefit mankind can instead threaten life as we know it and send us back to the dark ages. The protagonist must overcome his own internal and external conflict if he is to stop the madness and destroy this breakthrough discovery.

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