Character and Conflict: The 5 Stages of Resolution
Saying a story is plot driven is just another way of saying the characters are weak or underdeveloped. All stories are character driven, or should be. Without character there is no plot. Think of plot as the conflict that drives your character’s actions and in doing so the story. Plot exists only to challenge your character. Begin your story at the point of change, briefly demonstrating the status quo before the conflict begins.
I either wrote that paragraph in a stroke of genus sometime over the past decade as a published author or borrowed bits and pieces of it along the way. I've heard it all before...
Begin your story at the point of change. But what does that mean?
Beginnings are relatively easy. It’s why so many stories are started and never finished. But how do you keep the middle from sagging and resolve the ending?
With the 5 Stages of Resolution you don't have to reinvent the process. In fact you'll give your characters instant empathy by using this method. I'm talking about the grieving process as it applies to change.
Change involves loss and letting go. Grief as an emotion is easy to imagine. Someone close to us dies and we grieve the loss. Someone not so close dies--a school shooting, a tsunami--and we still feel a pang. That's empathy.
We all feel it. And you can use it to drive your story. The point is you character should be a different person at the end of the book than he or she was at the beginning. So how do you get there? In her book On Death And Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross defines the 5 stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, guilt and acceptance.
DENIAL * ANGER * BARGAINING * GUILT * ACCEPTANCE
By moving the romance (external conflict) through all 5 stages you'll reach a resolution that feels natural, not forced. Adding threads for each character (internal conflict--ie motivation) will give your story that extra depth. I like to start my hero or heroine somewhere in the middle. For example the hero in The Marine's Baby is motivated by guilt and back tracks a bit by striking a bargain with the heroine.
I'd like to open it up to questions now because I'm not talking about cookie cutter stories. This method can be as unique as you are. Skip a step, take two forward and one back. But trust me this works for me and it may just work for you.
When an aptitude test labeled her suited for librarian or clergy, Rogenna joined the Navy. It was off to bootcamp, followed by her first duty station, NAS Midway Island. She started in the CO's office and gravitated toward the Chaplain's where duties included operating the base library.
Rogenna met and married her sailor while serving her country. "The best part was that brief period of time when I outranked him." After receiving an Honorable Discharge she continued to serve as a Navy Wife and admits to being jealous of her husband's travels. "There's a reason for the slogan; Navy Wife, the toughest job in the Navy. It's like being a single parent--at least part of the time. Jeff's been to seventeen countries and was there for the filming of two major motion pictures aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise CVN65 (TOP GUN and HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER). We have three boys, one for each deployment."
With their Navy days behind them, the family currently resides in Colorado where Rogenna grew up. Before settling in to writing, she was a bookseller and a reviewer for several years. "The one constant has been the need to surround myself with people and books. I always wanted to be a writer/adventurer, but that aptitude test had great insight into my personality. And now I go wherever I want, whenever I want, through my writing."