Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Conflict

Funny, in real life we try to steer away from it. But fiction? You gotta lay it on thick, torture your poor little characters til they can't take no more.

But you know what comes from conflict? Character

When faced with an uphill battle, we see what peeps are made of. Are they weak, or determined? Stressed, or able to keep their cool? In fiction, your character can have any of those traits, so long as they're somewhat likeable with redeeming qualities. I mean, no one wants to spend a whole story with a whiner, right?

So see what your character's are made of. Make them shine and grow from what they've been through. When I was a girl I loved the movie Adventures in Babysitting. My daughter loves it now and I've probably seen it a hundred times this year alone. But it's notable for the conflict. From the time Elizabeth Shue who plays "Chris" answers the door in the very beginning, a whirlwind of problems come her way, each one seeming worse than the next:

-Her date cancels
-She gets stuck babysitting on a Friday night
-Her best friends runs away and needs help
-On the way to pick her up, Chris's car gets a flat
-She realizes she doesn't have her purse
-A strange old truck driver gives Chris and the kids a lift and tow, but end up making a detour when he learns about his wife's affair
-They end up at his house and the truck driver whips out a gun and Chris's windshield gets shot up
-Chris and kids hop in some random car to get out of the bullets, then realize it's being hijacked
-Hijacker drives off with them and takes them to a stolen car factory
-Chris and kids get locked up in some room, since they now know about the stolen cars
-They escape by the rafters, almost falling to their death
-They're chased by the car thieves, end up on stage at an inner city Blues club
-Chris and kids have to sing their way off the stage and out of the joint
-More chasing by car thieves, til Chris ends up on subway with kids, thinking they got away
-On the subway car 2 gangs are about to throw down with knives ...



Get the idea? If you haven't seen it, or it's been awhile, check it out. Makes for a great study on just how much conflict you can throw your MC's way. In the film, Chris becomes the kids' hero because she managed to get through the entire night without the kids' parents ever being the wiser. growth from conflict. A fully developed character arc. Before she was just a regular high school senior.

So when in doubt, make them squirm. Great stories evolve from conflict and how our characters handle it. Enjoy the rest of your blog visits.

HAPPY C DAY! 

Thanks for stopping by!

How about you? How's the A-Z tromp coming along? Any advice for adding conflict? Please share ...

32 comments:

Donna Weaver said...

And they were funny in their adversity. Gotta love humor!

Nas Dean said...

Great post about Conflict and Character. Thanks!

Me And The Tree said...

Great post about fiction, but it’s also a wonderful way to look at life. A tough day could just be another opportunity for ‘growth from conflict.’ However, let’s hope that it’s not as chaotic the Adventures in Babysitting example!
Marcella

mooderino said...

Fun film, i hop it doesn't give your daughter ideas though!
-mood
Moody Writing

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful post about conflict in fiction, enjoyed the read.

Yvonne.

salarsenッ said...

Conflict makes everything better, doesn't it?? Hah... Seriously, conflict makes the ending of the story that more meaningful. Just like life.

Gina said...

You just gave me a serious throwback. I've watched that movie more times than I can count!

Angeline said...

I'm a little bit of a sadist and love seeing how bad I can make it for my poor characters (I haven't broken any of them yet, I promise!)

It's very true; the strength of a person is shown in how they get back up again after falling.

Jules said...

Well if that is the case I'm one big character :) Nice post!
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Sophia Richardson said...

I think I'll have to watch that film to my to-watch list because it really does sound like a great study in raising the stakes. Who knew how much trouble you could get into from a date cancelling?
- Sophia.

Old Kitty said...

I absoloutely love Adventure in Babysitting too!! I didn't realise it then but boy oh boy does Ms Shue face some conflicts and rises about all of them with such courage and bravery!

Yay!! Take care
x

Amie Kaufman said...

Holy cow, that's a huge amount of conflict to get into one story! I've never heard of it before, but I think I'll have to take a look!

A. Lockwood said...

I've never seen that, but it sounds like fun!

Summer Ross said...

This is a good post, I hadn't realized how much conflict was in that movie.

I used to love watching it too.

A-z, I'm really enjoying trying new things and posting! Plus reading all sorts of new blogs.

kmckendry said...

I think that's one movie I missed as a kid. I'll have to check it out. I'm sure my girls will like it too.

M.J. Fifield said...

I loved Adventures in Babysitting when I was a kid. And yes, I still do love it. This was a really fun post!


M.J. Fifield
My Pet Blog

David Powers King said...

This blogfest is massive. So many people are involved. I need to learn how these things work so I can take part in one, one of these days.

Excellent thoughts!

I gave you a Shout-Out on my blog. :)

Roza M said...

Excellent examples. Conflict is a must. =)

christicorbett said...

"Nobody leaves without singing the Blues!"

Wow did I love that movie growing up. Thanks for reminding me of some great memories :)

Christi Corbett

Laura said...

I think you have just solved my problem with my WIP at the moment - I'm giving them far to easy a ride of things! I'm off to stir things up
Thank you:)
Lx

i.ikeda said...

Great post! In life as in fiction, character shines through conflict. And I love that movie, haha.

Thank you for your sweet comment in my blog today. The challenge is going well so far, but the letters have been easy. We'll see what happens when we get to the hard ones - hey, we gotta go through some blogging conflict as well. ;)

Jennifer Jackson said...

It can be about seeing what happens when you're characters CAN'T take it and not just how they do handle it. It shows the limits of him/her/them and what they do after being thrown out into the ocean without shore in sight.

LTM said...

omg.. *snort* Adventures in Babysitting... LOL! But what a great analogy! thanks, girl~

Michael Di Gesu said...

That was one FUNNY movie! The analogy works so well because so many of us have seen ADVENTURES ING BABYSITTING!

fOIS In The City said...

christicorbett said...
"Nobody leaves without singing the Blues!"

Corbett stole my moment. Did I see it? Like as many times as Breakfast Club!

Look up that song on Youtube ... my daughter just reminded me two weeks ago.

Yes, torture your MC, twist them from no to so and beat them silly ... if you can do it while providing side-splitting comedy ... Gees Louise ... you got it all. Great memories and better question. Thanks :)

Ann Best said...

No conflict, no story. Great choice for a C word.

And Adventures in Babysitting sounds delightful. I think it's after my time. I'll have to looking it up since from everyone's comments, and your post, it sounds wonderful. Something to learn from for one's own writing.
Ann Best, Long Journey Home

Tundiel said...

I've never seen that movie...

You are so right, though. I'm fairly evil to my characters. I make them go through a lot no matter what genre I am writing. Comedy, drama, it doesn't matter - they have to go through the mill. :)

Jeanne said...

Conflict, great C word. LOved the examples.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great post! I haven't seen the movie, but I'll check it out.

I always try to think about how I can up the stakes. Whenever I find myself typing out a new scene, I think, "Okay, this is kind of expected and blase; how can I take it to the next level?" I never let myself finish a scene without asking myself that. I don't always up the conflict - sometimes, you need a breather - but I always ask the question.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Great post! :) I have never seen that movie... I may have to check it out. I loved your examples of conflict. You can't throw too much at your characters right! :)

magpiewrites said...

Great post which reminds me to put more conflict in my WIP. I'm actually awful at this, I sort of linger at the outskirts, building tension, building tension building tension...but when it comes to having the conflict come, it's blink or you'll miss it. I've been called out on this by my writing group. I think it's an extension of hating conflict in my real life so much, I generally cross the street to avoid it (even if it's in my own living room)
I'm thinking I'll have to write a huge scene of conflict, really slam my MC around a bit, just to get in there, then I can ease off. Anyone have any hints on how to do this?

Alex F. Fayle said...

This type of quest story is great - I use it all the time with my students who have to write stories for their English exams. And then what goes wrong, and then what goes wrong, and then, and then...