Friday, August 8, 2014

Conflict—The Key to Rescuing a Sagging Middle

with guest Jessica Keller

Recently while serving as a contest judge for different writing competitions I’ve been noticing a common theme of a lack of external conflict. The writing would be excellent, but the synopsis would consist of a list of mundane activities that the hero and heroine would do throughout the book and then end with them in love. Huh?

Conflict, both internal and external, is the driving force of your story. Without it, all you have is a bunch of pages about a nice guy who likes a girl and unfortunately, that’s not enough to sell a story. Without challenge, we don’t care about your character—even if you spend a page describing how much he loves his grandma and how broad his shoulders are—we just don’t care about his story. 

The easiest way to know if your current story suffers from lack of conflict is to examine the middle of your manuscript. Does the story slow and slump? Consider adding more layers of conflict if you can answer yes to any of the following questions: Is your plot predictable? Does your main character achieve things too easily? Does your story climax happen too soon? Does your story lack tension? Fear not. Conflict is easy to add!

Today I’m focusing only on external conflict, which is essentially your plot. It’s what HAPPENS to your character, whereas internal conflict is what your character feels about how they’re dealing with what’s happening. External conflict often comes in the form of outward roadblocks to thwart whatever the main character wants. Most external conflict will fall into one of these:

1)    Person vs. Person – This does not have to mean a physical battle. In the story I’m currently writing its two people battling over a historic building in my fictional town. One wants to modernize it to make it more convenient and then other wants the save the building’s old charm which may make the business lose money. Two people at odds.

2)    Person vs. Nature – Storms. Sickness. Power outages caused by squirrels chewing through cables. The second book in my Goose Harbor series starts with the heroine in a deer vs. car accident. 

3)    Person vs. Society – Are they treated like an outcast in your town? Does the character suffer social anxiety? The board in  my fictional town starts to put pressure on the heroine who wants to save the history of the old building—to the point of getting the engineers in town to declare things unsafe. A community ganging up on a main character.

4)    Person vs. Technology – Often in fiction this is seen as battling robots and the like, but for Inspirational Romance it could be as simple as a control freak wedding organizer breaking her smartphone, a computer virus ruining a reporter’s front page article seconds before deadline, or a fax machine that mangles the important message saying the love interest in the story is wanted for kidnapping.

5)    Man vs. Animal – To borrow the tagline from Sharknado: Enough said.

Those are the main ways external conflict appears in our stories, but we don’t just throw a bunch of conflict at a character and consider the story done. It doesn’t work that way. If the hero wrestles a bear in the first chapter, hijacks a tour bus in the second chapter, and storms the White House in chapter three, the reader still doesn’t care because the stakes aren’t clear. Why is the hero doing these things? Who is in danger? What does the hero want? Why do we care what he wants? Believable characters and logical conflict gives a story purpose. Conflict for the sake of conflict is quickly labeled “episodic” (*shudder*) and we authors fear that word.

For the conflict in our stories to matter the obstacles our characters need to overcome must correlate directly to whatever our character is trying to achieve. So every time you’re tempted to toss a snowstorm at your character, stop and ask if that helps push the story goal or if it’s just wasted conflict that doesn’t serve the plot. It’s a lot to think about, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Pick your horizon. 

What does your character want most? At the onset of the story, what is their goal? That goal is now their horizon and as long as it stays out of reach, the story can continue. But it only stays on the horizon because of obstacles—if not for obstacles, the goal becomes easily reachable. 

For example, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth kills the king because his goal is for his linage to inherit the crown. Everything that happens in the play puts Macbeth further and further from seeing that dream achieved. In Casablanca Victor Laslo is trying to leave Casablanca—thereby gaining freedom. Therefore the conflicts that keep occurring in the movie are all things that keep people from being able to leave Casablanca. 

If you have no idea what your character’s main goal is, then neither will your reader which will make conflict feel meaningless. At the onset of writing your story you need to know what your character wants most and then start throwing logical obstacles in their path to keep them from reaching their goal.

So back to our snowstorm—that would be a logical conflict if your heroine’s goal was to make sure her family was safe and her younger sister happened to be stuck in an abandoned lodge at the top of a mountain. Then a snowstorm makes for excellent conflict—especially if our hero is a weatherman who warned the heroine not to go out searching for her sister because he noticed something on the radar. See how we did that?

Do the math. 

I hate math just as much as the next writer, but there is a simple equation that will make certain your story never slumps. Ready? 

Goal + Problem/Obstacle = Conflict.

At the start of your story something happens to create the story question. For example, in a typical romance its girl meets boy, so the story question is—will the hero and heroine achieve their happily ever after? Conflict: Girl doesn’t like boy. Or girl’s family hates boy. Or girl and boy’s main character goals are at war with each other (think about the building that one wants to modernize and the other wants to keep historical). 

Warning. A small author soapbox on romantic conflict: An argument does not equal conflict. Don’t use a misunderstanding that can easily be cleared up by your characters actually talking to each other as the crux of your story. This annoys readers. Greatly. There are Amazon review pages teeming with one star reviews ranting about how the entire book could have been one chapter long if the characters would have just talked together. You can avoid getting those reviews by adding in realistic external conflicts.  


I’m a firm believer in the theory that conflict belongs on every single page. If it’s a romance novel it works best if their goals put the heroine and hero in conflict with each other from the get go. There shouldn’t just be one or two moments of conflict, but a string of them that build. Start with the smallest conflicts first and build to the biggest one (climax). Your character should be victorious over some obstacles, but they should also be defeated by some of them as well. The main thing being, they don’t give up.   

Readers get to know our characters because of how they respond to these conflicts and that is why they care about them. Write your story and layer conflicts in a way that makes the reader start to doubt that the happy ending they’re hopping for can ever happen. Well done conflict creates doubt. Doubt breeds curiosity. And curiosity keeps readers flipping pages late into the night. 


Leave a comment today for a chance to win one of three copies of The Widower's Second Chance. 

Learning To Love…Again 

Idyllic Goose Harbor, Michigan, offers a fresh start for broken-hearted Paige Windom. In addition to securing a teaching job at the high school, she'll fulfill her dream of helping at-risk teens in a nearby inner-city mentoring program. But Caleb Beck, a handsome yet overprotective widower and the center's founder, doesn't want Paige anywhere near the place. He's afraid she'll get hurt—just like his late wife. Paige knows she can do a lot of good—for the kids and Caleb himself. If only she can show him how to let go of his fear, maybe they'll both find a way to reopen their wounded hearts. 

Goose Harbor: Love is in big supply on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Harlequin.


Jessica Keller holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Inspirational Romance and has 100+ magazine and newspaper articles to her name. She’s also a contributor to the popular writing focused blog The Write Conversation. You can find her at, on Twitter @AuthorKeller, on Tumblr, or on her Facebook Author Page. She lives in the Chicagoland suburbs with her amazing husband, beautiful daughter, and two annoyingly outgoing cats that happen to be named after superheroes.


  1. Great post, Jessica. And welcome to Seekerville. This is probably the biggest thing that keeps me and other readers from picking up a book! I have sometimes given an author a second chance thinking they might have learnt, but not likely the third chance. I would love to read your book...there's conflict from the first page?

  2. Thanks for the great post, Jessica.

    I agree there is little more frustrating than a book's entire "conflict" being built around a misunderstanding that could (and should) be cleared up with a simple conversation. If the hero and heroine don't have some serious obstacles stacked against them I'm really not that interested!

  3. Jessica, good morning! Thanks for being here in Seekerville today!

    Conflict is great in books, not so much in families. But I love the broken road leading to a happy ending!


  4. This is definitely a post to bookmark, Jessica. Thank you. A funny little thing: your town is Goose Harbor. Mine is Goose Bay. I love it. :)

  5. Jessica, just what I needed this morning! Conflict is hard for me to write. I'm not a 'conflict' person and will go out of my way to avoid it! :-)

    I think I'm starting to get better at writing conflict and articles like yours are a big help.

    Put my name in the drawing pot, please! :-)

  6. Hi Jessica,
    Your opening paragragh says it all for me. I've read so many books like that. You are so right! there has to be more to a story than 1)boy meets girl, 2)falls in love and then 3)The End.

    I would like to read your book, please enter me in the drawing.

  7. Jessica, welcome to Seekerville! And thanks for an excellent post on how to write external conflict! I love to write internal conflict but external conflict comes harder. I must always remind myself that repeating a conflict--even a strong conflict--isn't raising the stakes.

    I brought egg bakes, fruit and apple fritters to go with Ruthy's coffee.


  8. Fun and relevant post - thanks Jessica! For a person who hates conflict I get this problem. I'd rather skip to HEE.
    To quote the wisdom of Jackie Layton: whenever things start to slump, kill somebody off. Well - maybe not so much in a romance but thinking about it gets the conflict pumping!

  9. Excellent post, Jessica. Not to mention a great reminder.


  10. Jessica,
    Thanks for a great blog on external conflict. You've nailed it, for sure, and made the, at times, confusing concept easy to grasp...and incorporate into our stories.

    Conflict is the key. Both external and internal. You're right. Often stories fall short and are rejected because both are lacking.

    Congrats on your success, and thanks for being with us today!


  11. Hey, Jessica, Welcome back to Seekerville. Ruthy brought coffee and I brought Denny's French Toast Hush Puppies.


  12. Best post on sagging middles I have read in a long time. Well done!

    Now I want to know when you write with a child and full time job???

  13. And of course, what's next on the horizon in Goose Harbor?

  14. Great post, Jessica... Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  15. Marianne - Conflict from page one? Well, in Widower's on page one the hero finds the heroine burning a wedding dress in the basement ;)

    But I'm with you - to me, there has to be tension on every page. I don't want to read a chapter about the heroine grocery shopping (I just read a story like that...) unless its adding to the plot.

  16. Great post, Jessica, and welcome to Seekerville!

    Your post reminded me of a romance novel I picked up awhile back that seemed little more than a series of incidents where one of them was always getting sick or injured and being nursed back to health by the other. Up, down, up, down, and never really moving forward toward specific goals. I hadn't even gotten halfway through the book when I tossed it aside.

    Worth noting: It was NOT written by anyone in Seekerville!!!!

    That's because we get to read such excellent writing advice here every day!

  17. YES! Kara. That's my rom reading heart's pet peeve. Like...just talk already. Unless its some insanely dark secret, it just doesn't ever work. But sadly there are many published books out there where that's the main conflict in the story...them not talking about one issue.

    It makes me not think highly of the characters and anymore, makes me quit reading the book.

  18. **swigs down 4 cups of coffee**

    Thanks Ruthy! I've pulled 4 1am nights in a row (and then gone to work all those days) because I was under a deadline this week!

  19. Suzie, Goose Bay - I love it! My first book in the series (Widower's Second Chance) explains the importance of the goose theme for my series. Little known history - geese were on the extint list at one point and are considered the most successful comeback story in the animal kingdom. I figured if the goose could do that, my characters could do it too (heal and recover from life's hurts and flourish!).

  20. Mary - conflict is scary sometimes in life (very scary) and adding it into our stories. The fact is, we love our characters and no one wants to hurt someone (even fictional) that we love.

    But, the crux is, our readers won't ever love those chracters without conflict.

    Internal conflict is super important too, but I had to only focus on one (or risk writing something too long for blog consumption!).

    The great thing is, internal often lends to external. So they can be paired together to add more layers. If your heroine was up all night worrying about something, then her fuse will be short the next day and that wise crack the hero makes that would have usually gotten an eye roll now starts a huge fight. See? Internal and external going hand in hand. It can be fun. Just think, in this does a normal person act?

  21. Absolutely Tracey. Boy meets girl is not and never will be enough to carry a romance story.

    I think authors forget sometimes that your characters have more going on in their life than just meeting that person. What were your characters hopes and dreams before running into Mr. Dreamy Eyes?

    And more do the things in their lives that happened before meeting, and while they're getting to know each other - keep them apart? Because if they aren't being kept apart, well...then there's no story.

    In the second Goose Harbor book (coming in Feb. The Firefighter's Secret) my hero set the church on fire when he ran away from town at 16. Little did he know that the heroine was inside the building at the time and has scars from third degree burns on her back, legs, and arms that she hides and have served to hold her back from much in life. When she finds out it was his could those two end up together?

  22.! Kill someone off is a great reminder. Any time my characters start having mundane conversations I stop the story and look for conflict. It's always there, we just have to explore what would happen to up the tension whenever it feels lacking.

  23. Tina - goodness...presently my stategy is lots of coffee and not much sleep. I'm lucky because my husband is incredibly supportive and he'll take our daughter out for the day if I need to write on the weekends. But my standby is late night work. After she goes to bed I'll go to my office until midnight usually.

    As for what's on the horizon for Goose Harbor:

    Book Two: The Firefighter's Secret releases Feb. 2015. And I'm really excited about that story, the hero is close to my heart.

    Book Three: No name yet (and I'm currently writing it right now). Centers around the inn keeper (Maggie) who we meet in chapter one of book one. She's so much fun to write and the hero is the ex-leader of a touring that's been fun ;)

    There are 12 more books plotted for the series so I'm hoping people love Goose Harbor and want more!

    I have two indie books releasing before the end of this year as well that are both inspy romances (one has a divided contemporary and historical and one is a straight, sweet, historical that takes place at Christmas).

  24. Myra you make a really excellent point. Some books have conflict that is meaningless and that's just as horrible of a writing offense as no conflict.

    We have to remember that our reader's time is valuable. Don't string them along with pointless conflict.

    Conflict should always, always, always be purposeful to the plot and character growth needed in the story. If the conflict is only to make the hero and heroine sit togehter...well, that's not enough.

  25. We should probably mail you some coffee. You're going to need it! Wow. Busy writing schedule!

  26. JESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Excellent post! [Like it would be anything else!]

    But this:
    If the hero wrestles a bear in the first chapter, hijacks a tour bus in the second chapter, and storms the White House in chapter three -

    What if his name is Jack Bauer? Then can he?

    I'm in the process of expanding a manuscript I originally pitched to LI to trade length. There was enough conflict for LI [I think] but not enough for 80-90K trade. Or at least I hadn't explored it enough. I'm also working to set up a later book but am trying to make sure each scene still relates to the original h/h and not just as a "prequel" to the other book [man, I love that other story though! It has some great conflict! Opening line: Throw him in the dungeon. :D]

    {{{{JESS}}}} Love you and so incredibly proud of you!

  27. Good post! One of my pet peeves in a book is when it's bogged down with the characters' mundane activities.

  28. Just a point of clarification: There CAN and SHOULD be misunderstandings that your hero and heroine have to work through and may not talk through them right away...but that shouldn't be the main conflict that your story hangs on. Make sense? Clear as the delta of the Mississippi, right? ;)

  29. I happily welcome all coffee and chocolate donations Tina ;)

  30. I didn't even finish reading this before copying and pasting it into Word! ;-) I need this right now, so thank you so much, Jessica. I can write dialogue just fine (in high school, one of my friends read the novel I'd written and wrote something on the front about it being "a talky novel"), but plot is my bugaboo which means I have trouble with conflict. I think that's why I procrastinate about writing...

    Would love to have my name tossed into the hat for your book! Thanks. :)

  31. Carol - Jack Bauer is an anomoly. Actually, he's not because all the crazy conflict in 24 works because it all fights against his chracter and story goals each season. You can have all the insane conflict-shootouts, car chases, alien landings-that you want as long as it drives alongside the story goals (or really, in opposition to the character goals!).

    I love your opening line! I'm a HUGE fan of intriguing opening lines (I'm doing a post on that topic on another blog in the near future!). I also love your opening line to your story that has a guy with a chainsaw. Great stuff and immediate conflict.

  32. Glad to help Melanie! :)

    And be proud of writing dialogue well - that's a huge deal! So many people have trouble with stilted dialogue so having people tell you your characters talk well is awesome.

  33. Hi Jessica:

    Love your cover!

    A gazebo is one of my favorite items to see on a romance cover. And my three favorite phrases in a title are, “Second Chance”, “Stranded”, and “Runaway Bride”. A gazebo and “Second Chance” together makes your book an ‘auto-buy’. (If I don’t win one of the three copies! :))

    While I agree with all your comments concering conflict, I do not particularly favor the term ‘conflict’ itself. The term always makes me think of two guys having a fist fight. Also very often ‘conflict’ is used figuratively or metaphorically. Like when a writer just ‘has to win’ a writing contest and there are fifty other entries. Is that literally conflict?

    There can also be conflict without any sting as when two pro wrestlers, who are brothers, hold a charity wrestling match. It might be a bloody exhibition but if neither cares who wins, there will not be much conflict.

    I think a better term is ‘tension’. Conflict can cause tension’ but so can many other things that one might have to stretch the meaning of to call 'conflict' for the purpose of covering the “C” in GMC.

    Actually thinking in terms of ‘conflict’ may restrict one’s creativity in coming up with other good tension causing situations. Indeed, a concept like ‘conflict’ can prove to be so useful that we fail to see how it is also a limiting factor to our creativity. (Thinking the earth is flat works really well in most cases.)

    Sexual tension can be a great page-turner without having to be figuratively referred to as conflict. Both the hero and heroine could both love teasing each other in the office thinking nothing could ever come of it. Is it conflict if they both really want the same thing? I think ‘sexual tension’ is a far better descriptive term than ‘sexual conflict’.

    My suggestion would be to think of how to create tension in ways that best suit the needs of the story. Use conflict where conflict is appropriate but also leave the door open to many more possibilities by thinking in terms of tension – not just conflict.

    “While tension without conflict can cause a reader to turn pages, conflict without tension most likely will not.”

    Also remember this: tension has a twin called stress. : )


  34. Great stuff here, Jessica. I particularly like your note about 'an argument not equally conflict' - or not letting a simple misunderstanding be the whole heart of conflict in your story.

    Tina introduced me to The Hero's Journey by Michael Hauge(several years ago) and it as a fantastic reminder of the vital need for various types of conflict to keep the story and read-worthy story :-)

    Thanks so much for the post!

  35. Vince I completely agree with you. When I am helping out pre-pubbed writers in one-on-one senarios I always use the word tension instead of conflict. And for the most part here, I'm meaning tension. I use the term "external conflict" because that's a common term in the writing world.

    But you're right. Thinking of the word "tension" can open the door to creativity if the term conflict sounds bad to someone.

  36. Great advice -- I guess you'd say that authors have to have backbone in order to be mean to their characters. LOL. I love reading a book that has me all upset about the conflict even though I know things will work out in the end. I've been known to shout instructions at characters while reading, but alas, they never listen to me.

  37. Oh yes!

    "The only reason Annie stopped screaming was to take a breath."

    Followed by:
    "When she did, a hand clamped over her mouth. She looked up but only saw herself in the reflective sunglasses."

    Then you and I proceeded to taunt the others who commented on the picture with the knowledge that he's also holding a chainsaw and about to drag her into an windowless, underground room.

    Man, I love that story! I need to get back to it someday!

  38. Thank you, Jessica, for this detailed post today. I'm going to print it off and refer to it as I review my current plotting. As an over-thinker and over-analyzer, I can write an entire book of internal dialogue. But who would want that boring tome? Maybe another navel-gazer but few book-buyers. :-) Thanks again for the many suggestions!

  39. I love that story too Carol! I can't wait to see you publish it and have it in my hands someday!

  40. I can't wait to see me write it :p. It's not terribly high on the list right now though...

  41. Myra, I agree! We're blessed to get a daily dose of excellent writing advice. That keeps the important things in front of us. Can't understand why I still forget to do what I know. Anyone else??


  42. I have never had a Denny's French Toast Hush Puppy.

    I'm bummed.

  43. Great post, Jessica---thanks so much. As a former kindergarten teacher I've found that writing enough conflict in my stories is my biggest challenge *sigh*. Because I want everyone to "play nicely and get along" LOL - - but of course, I know a story won't be interesting at all without enough conflict. So....I continue working on that, and your helpful post today is going in my Keeper Files!
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

    p.s. So glad to read that you have CATS! ;)

  44. Vince, that's righteously astute and that doesn't surprise me!

    Jessica, I use "tension" too, rather than conflict because it seems more accurate to me, but you're right, 'conflict' is what gets thrown around....

    Aren't we beyond blessed to have deadlines???? There isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God for that.... Someone is PAYING ME to write!!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYA!


    I brought food, chicken salad, fresh lettuce, soft, chewy Italian crustini rolls and some fresh dill if you like a splash of dill on your chicken salad!

    Lemonade and sweet tea, too, because it is still summer! Hooray!

  45. Carol Moncado, I love when you stop by!

    Good to see you!

  46. Two cats! Bruce Wayne (all black with yellow eyes) and Clark Kent (a striped lovable soul who would go to the ends of the world for my daughter). They're my constant companions whenever I'm writing - usually you'll find both draped across my desk

  47. Great tips! Thank you, Jessica!

    Love your book blurb. It draws emotion out and so does your cover! Beautiful!

  48. Excellent post, Jessica! I agree. Conflict is essential to any good story, and you have outlined some great ways to create that conflict. And now I must go create some conflict for Rapunzel and Sir Gerek! Have fun in Seekerville today!

  49. Love those cats!!! I have Jesse James, who just chewed on a Priority Envelope to tell me HE WANTS LUNCH NOW!!! And Charlie who is much more patient.

  50. Chicken salad! And I'm wearing my string of pearls today given to me by a man named Matthew no less - its all feeling very Anne of Green Gables-ish. :)

    Thanks Ruthy - we can always count on you for good food.

  51. Jessica, thank you for this great post! You packed a whole book's worth of information in one post!

    You have 12 plots for your Goose Harbor series? I better get reading before I get behind. I hope every one makes it to publication! Love the cover!

  52. **waving at Mel**

    Long time no talk friend! I'm salivating over waiting on The Princess Spy to release. THREE more months of torture.

    Perhaps Rapunzel's hair could get stuck in a wheel or something...I think that idea has merit! ;)

  53. Thanks Donna! I hope they all make publication as well. I'm a big fan of series that all weave together and as a reader I get to keep seeing what's going on in the lives of characters I met in earlier books and see how they're growing as well. My dream is to do that with Goose Harbor if they're let me ;)

  54. Oooo, that's a good book blurb! And how wonderful when an author says she has many more plots for a series. So much fun to get to 'know' the folks in a town.

    Great writing tips. Thanks especially for the examples.

    Nancy C

  55. Conflict is definitely an important topic. I am currently plotting my novel. It has a tornado, which gives a built-in conflict of person vs. nature, but I need to make sure that each of my characters has his or her own personal conflict as well.
    Your book looks good--I would love to be entered into the drawing.

  56. Jessica,

    Great post today. So glad I stopped by.

    I don't like misunderstandings as the main conflict. If they can't talk enough to clear up the misunderstanding, do they really belong together?

    Thanks for sharing today!

  57. Thanks for the tips, Jessica! I think I had an aha moment about my current wip while reading your post!

    May I take a moment to shamelessly self promote. Today is my debut release date as a published author!!!

    Pelican is offering a special HALF price discount for the ebook version of Betrayed Hearts, today only! So if you have an extra $2.50 and want to try a new author, I'd be thrilled!!

    Thanks all you Seekers and Seeker friends for your support!

    Sue (who has been carrying a copy of her book around for 2 days now and grinning!)

  58. Oh, yeah..

    That would be helpful!

  59. Jessica, this is pure gold. I loved all you shared about conflict. I definitely struggle with coming up with the right conflict for some scenes. It really does come down to knowing the over arching goals of each character, but also the goal a character has going into a scene. Still figuring out how to master this. :)

    This is a copy and paste post for me. :)

  60. Hi Jessica and welcome to Seekerville. What a great post with excellent tips and points made. Thanks a bunch for sharing with us in Seekerville.

    Have a great day.

  61. SUE!!! Congratulations on Release Day!!! What a thrill!!!!

  62. Jessica, thank you! This is good stuff. I'll have to read it again as I'm muddling through the middle right now.

    Huh...seems like I'm always in the middle. What's up with that???????

  63. Jessica, Thank you for your post. I love that you mentioned Victor from Casablanca. I'm a fan of classic movies and have always thought he doesn't get enough recognition.

    I'm starting to plot my next book and I appreciate the tips on the middle of the book and keeping the conflict through the whole book (every page!).


  64. Susan that's WONDERFUL news!! Happy debut day to you :)

    **pulls out party hats and tosses confetti**

  65. That's what I'm always left thinking Jackie! Great minds I tell you, great minds.

    I read books like that and think...if it takes them this long to work through this minor misunderstanding...I FEAR for their future relationship.

  66. Jeanne, yup - you hit the nail right on the head. Its all about goals and motivations (and then attacking those things with tension and conflicts.)

    Sometimes if I start to feel a scene getting muddled I step away and ask myself what my character's emotional and mental states were at the start of the scene, what's at stake in the scene, and who has the most to lose.

    When I'm struggling, more often than not, I'm writing from the wrong POV and I need to switch to the person who has the most at stake in the scene and who the tension/conflict will affect more.

  67. This comment has been removed by the author.

  68. Tanya I'll watch Casablanca or any classic movie with you any time you want. It's one of my favorite pass times.

  69. Jessica, great reminder about the sagging middle -- the longest part and the hardest to write. Thanks for the tips!

  70. In my WIPs, the external conflict is usually readily apparent. It's the internal conflict that I struggle to define.

  71. Wow, thanks, Jessica. I'm struggling with plotting. Your timing is perfect. I'd love to win a copy of your book.

  72. This is such a great article! I'm sorry I missed being here on the day. Reading through the list made me sit back and think about my WIP.
    Methinks I need a bit more conflict!

  73. A great post thank you.

    Count me in thanks.

  74. Such timely advice! My WIP is seriously lacking in the conflict department. Enough so, that I'm bored writing it, so I can't imagine anyone wanting to read it :) You've given a lot to think about and some ideas to clear the fog. Thank you!

  75. I'm glad this came at the right time Glynis. There's nothing worse than that feeling of loving our characters but not wanting to spend time with them (I've been there!). You're right, the best way to get excited about a story is to insert drama and tension into your poor characters' lives! Best of luck