Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lesson 22: Bridging Conflict

Good Wednesday...where did the week go? It's the old age...LOL...I'm forgetful now...LOL! Okay while I still remember, let's get to the lesson!

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and additional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. We're done with Character Development, now we're moving on to Plot Development! Today's lesson is in Section TWO: Bridging Conflict.

Did you ever arrive early for a party? It's awkward, isn't it? The music isn't playing. The host and hostess aren't ready. You offer help, but there's nothing you can do....except feel awkward.

That's how some manuscripts are. Pieces of the story are being assembled, but nothing is happening yet, and the protagonist hasn't arrived. I fact nobody you like has shown up and your wondering why you accepted the invitation.

Bridging conflict is a story element that takes care of that. It is the temporary conflict or mini-problem or interim worry that makes opening material matter. There are many ways to create it. Even anticipation of changes is a kind of conflict that can make us lean forward and wonder, What is going to happen?

How do you bridge from your opening page to your novel's main events? Do you just get us there, filling space with arrival, setup, and backstory? Or do you use the preliminary pages of your manuscript to build tension of a different sort?

Step 1: Does your novel include a prologue that does not include your protagonist, or one or more opening chapters in which your hero does not appear. Move your hero's first scene to page one.

Step 2: Once your protagonist arrives on stage what business do you feel must be included before the first big change, conflict, problem, or plot development arrives?

Step 3: What is the bridging conflict that carries us through those opening steps to the first big change, conflict, problem, or plot development?

Step 4: Open your manuscript to page one. How can you make that bridging conflict stronger at this point?

Step 5: turn to page two. Repeat the previous step. Continue until you reach the first big change, conflict, problem, or plot development.

Note: The number one reason for conflict, especially in the opening pages.

Follow-up: Find four places in your novel, ones that fall between plot development or scenes, in which the problem does not immediately arrive.

Conclusion: To maintain high tension it isn't necessary to keep your novel's central conflict squarely front and center. Bridging conflict adds contrast and variety, and makes even peripheral action matter. It is what keeps your readers' eyes glued always to the page, even when your main plot is taking a break!

And now a joke from Ric! He's in rare form!

A gynecologist had become fed up with malpractice insurance and was on the verge of being burned out. Hoping to try another career where skillful hands would be beneficial, he decided to change careers and become a mechanic.

He found out from the local technical college what was involved, signed up for evening classes, attended diligently, and learned all he could.

When the time for the practical exam approached, the gynecologist prepared carefully for weeks and completed the exam with tremendous skill.

When the results came back, he was surprised to find that he had obtained a score of 150%. Fearing an error, he called the instructor, saying, "I don't want to app ear ungrateful for such an outstanding result, but I wondered if there had been an error
which needed adjusting."

The instructor said, "During the exam, you took the engine apart perfectly, which was worth 50% of the total mark. You put the engine back together again perfectly, which is also worth 50% of the mark."

The instructor went on to say, "I gave you an extra 50% because you did all of it through the muffler."



  1. Bernita said...
    Oh. My. Goodness.

    Thank you, Bonnie, you and Maass just justified my opening ( and it's not a muffler!)
    Have done something right.
    Steve said...
    An oldie, but a goodie (the joke - that is)... hehehe

    Just in case you thought I was being rude and making references to your youngish age.

    Thanks for the helpful hints. I might just have to see if they sell this book in Oz, or is it available from Amazon online?

    Blessings to you,

Post a Comment