The Conflict Cycle – Part Two

conflicto-327x300In last week’s tip, I began a discussion of the conflict cycle and looked at the first of these two main components:

  1. An obstacle arises to block a character from achieving a goal.
  2. The character responds to the obstacle.

Today, I will discuss item #2.

Here are the three main units that comprise the character’s response to the obstacle:

1. Reaction – The character’s response to the disaster. At first, the character is knocked for a loop. He or she needs to show pain, and readers will feel the pain as well. This usually occurs in a rest period after the conflict. Time passes. Emotions come to the surface as well as fears and doubts. Then the character recovers and reasserts the need to get going again. He or she looks at the available options, and they are all difficult or impossible, which creates the Dilemma.

2. Dilemma – A situation in which there are no good options. This allows readers a chance to worry, which creates a powerful emotional connection. Your readers can’t see how the character will get out of this mess. The character works through the choices and finally decides to act on what seems to be the best of the bad options, which is the Decision.

3. Decision – The character makes a decision and does so with determination. We want the character to be proactive, not just sit around until he is forced into a decision. This choice from among bad options should make sense to readers. We want readers to respect the decision even if they might disagree with it. At least the decision is not a stupid one. This allows readers to continue cheering for the character. The choice should still be fraught with danger and/or tension, but it has to look feasible, at least in the eyes of the character. When the decision is made, the character has a new Goal, and we go back to the beginning of the conflict cycle.

If I were to provide examples from Reapers this time, the excerpts would be too long and filled with spoilers. I hope the descriptions of each unit is sufficient.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them.

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2 replies

  1. I am Evan from Cincinnati the other day, and this reminded me of the lessons you taught. Thanks again for the fun, as well as as informing, time. I am writing a novel, and so is my friend Alyssa (WritingAnyOne on here). You are an inspiration to our own writing journeys, and it meant a lot to be able to meet you.

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