Where’s the Conflict?

A couple weeks ago, the fantastic Audrey Lockwood was kind enough to take a look at the first few chapters of my current WIP. She gave me some great feedback, but at the end of her comments said: “So where’s the conflict?” (more kindly of course, but it felt like one of those D’oh moments.)

I had to pause at that. I thought I had plenty of conflict – I’d uprooted the MC and put her in a new setting, I’d introduced a new romantic interest, even a bit of mystery. But then I started thinking about it and Audrey was right. I had mistaken plot for conflict.

PLOT — The plot is how the author arranges events to develop his basic idea;  It is the sequence of events in a story or play.

CONFLICT—   Conflict is essential to plot.  Without conflict there is no plot.  It is the opposition of forces which ties one incident to another and makes the plot move.  Conflict is not merely limited to open arguments, rather it is any form of opposition that faces the main character.*

I’d added tons of plot devices, but I hadn’t focused on moving those plot points forward in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my brain wrapped around what I needed to do to fix my problems. How do you create meaningful conflict? What’s a good way to organize this? How could I make the reader connect more with what was going on?

And so it was Google to the rescue! I stumbled on Randy Ingermanson’s site where he discusses how to write the perfect scene and uses the Scene and Sequel methodology for a framework. I’d never really gotten into that too much, but as I started reading, I realized that it made sense for this situation. And even better, there was a handy tool for figuring out where I was going wrong. According to Randy:

A Scene has the following three-part pattern:

  1. Goal
  2. Conflict
  3. Disaster

A Sequel has the following three-part pattern:

  1. Reaction
  2. Dilemma
  3. Decision

So I created a little spreadsheet and broke down each scene/chapter into these areas. I identified the character’s goal at the start of the scene, the obstacles that stand in the way of her getting to that goal, and the disaster that occurs that stops her from reaching that goal in the scene. I also filled out the sequel piece to flesh out the rest of the scene. And voila! I had a map of how I needed to re-write the scene to amp up the conflict and make the story stronger.

I was astonished at how many cool new ideas occurred to me while going through this exercise. New plot points to deepen the story line, new characterization to help my MC become more real, even new twists to torture everyone even more! So yes, it was a lot of work that I didn’t expect to have to do, but now that I’ve done it, I think it will make the story SO much stronger. I already feel better about how the first chapter reads and the action that happens there, and I’m hoping my crit partners will feel the same way!

Edited to Add: The amazing Kristin Lamb blogged about this on Monday in much greater detail and with a TON of fantastic information. I highly recommend you pop over and check out her post if this interests you!

(*definitions from:  http://hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.ca/engramja/elements.html)


Today’s Perfume: Nanette Lepore

Description: In order to capture Nanette Lepore’s whimsically romantic creations, the perfumers abandoned the traditional – weaving together a tapestry of natural essences including threads that flow throughout the entire fragrance. The notes are delicate and white, colorful and sparkling, and warm and sensual.

Moonstone Rose, White Peach, White Cranberry Juices, Magenta Nectar, Black Currant, Orange Jasmine, Persian Lime Juice, Velvet Violet, Amber, Indian Sandalwood.

My thoughts: This is a lovely perfume, but on me I get a heavy scent of the Amber and Sandalwood rather than the more floral rose and peach scents which I wanted. I keep searching for that perfect mixture of Vanilla and floral and I haven’t found it yet. I thought initially that this was it – the first spray had a beautiful richness, and yet it was clean and crisp, but then it deepened into something that’s more of a comfort scent on me. It’s light and warm – something to snuggle into. And right now, I’m looking for something that will wake me up. It’ll stay on my maybe list for a full bottle. I’ll have to try it in the fall again – I have a feeling it’ll work better on me as a cool weather scent.

Where to buy: Sephora


  1. You are my SECOND CP to talk about Randy Ingermanson and both times I had to ask, “Is this the SAME guy?” I signed up for his promotion-laden newsletter and got nothing out of it. What the heck… I’m getting way more out of you guys’ interpretation and dissemination of his ideas than him. All I remember of his website were some jargon-y “worksheets” for thought clouds, or whatever the heck.

  2. Huh, that sounds interesting. I hadn’t heard of Randy Ingermanson before. I’ll have to check out the link.

    And thanks for calling me fantastic 😉

    • I hadn’t heard of him either – it was a lucky stumble 🙂 and you’re so welcome! Especially since it’s true!