02 February 2016

Writing inspiration: A lesson in conflict

Nothing has been easy this week. And it's only Tuesday.

Case #1: I went to the gym this morning for the first time in three months. I got up early, braved the cold, spent what seemed like hours (but was probably only 10-15 minutes) scraping frost off my car windows. I thought about giving up several times, but in the end I got into my frost-free car and drove to the gym...only to find out that they couldn't unfreeze my account. They'd have a manager call me, they said. But she didn't, so it was on me to call back this afternoon. Sorry, but only the primary account holder (i.e. my friend) can authorize this. Friend contacted, but she's incredibly busy, so no idea when I'll hear back about when she can find time to go reactivate my account.

Case #2:  I just moved, so I called my health insurance company to report a change of address. They got a new system recently, and now the only way to change my address is to reapply. (Really?!?) But that's okay: you can reapply online! Super easy! Except I don't have either of the two supported browsers. But that's okay! You can print the application! Except that I don't have a printer, so I'd need to go down to a photocopy store and pay bunches of money to print it out, and then pay to mail it in. But that's okay! Here's a list of people nearby who can help you! Look, this one has an appointment available this week! Next page: No appointments available. Sigh.

Case #3: I also need to report a change of address to my insurance company and buy renter's insurance. I call the number on the back of my card, but no one's available to take my call. The automated message asks if I want to leave a voicemail. Yes, please. Clicks over to another line, which is nothing but dead air. Hello? Hello? Sigh. Click. Okay, I'll try THIS number. Ooh, yes! A person! She changes my address. Progress! Oh, but you have to talk to someone else to buy renter's insurance. Can she have an agent call me back? Yes, that would be great. [This is the agent not calling me back.] On tomorrow's to-do list: Call insurance company. Again.

What's my point in sharing all of this with you aside from venting my frustration? Plot and conflict, my friends.

Conflict in your story doesn't have to be between two people; it can be between a character and the world at large. Shit going wrong. Things seeming hard and turning out to be even harder. The cases above are all great examples of hurdles getting thrown in the path of the beloved protagonist (me) and what she wants (to work out, change her address, get insured). Hurdles make the story more dramatic. They increase the emotional stakes because, with each one, the character has to recommit to what s/he is doing. And they make success in the end more gratifying, more triumphant. Or they make failure more tragic. Either way, it's a win for the story.

This afternoon I funneled much of my frustration into my WIP's characters. Nothing in this section of the book will be easy for anybody, I wrote in the margin of my notebook. Because if I have to suffer, so do my characters. I'm that kind of goddess, it seems. The difference between me and them is this: While my future is uncertain, I know my characters get their happy endings. Well...most of them do. ;*) 

What life events can inspire your story/characters today?

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