Mini writing workshop: Must we fight?

in fiction •  18 days ago

Welcome to the weekly mini writing workshop. The idea behind these posts is to provide simple tips and examples to help those who are trying to improve their fiction writing.

This is not a long class. We're not tackling the complex problems of novel writing. But hopefully, you'll find some useful tidbits.

This workshop session is about conflict in fiction.
Fighting scene
Image source: Pixabay

Topic of the day: Must we fight?


I say this often because it bears repeating; without conflict you don't have a story.

Consider these two examples:

  1. Angela and Brian walked to the park. It was springtime, and the air smelled sweet like fresh cream with berries.
  2. Angela and Brian walked to the park, Pugsley between them like a miniature barrier. When Brian tripped on a crack in the walkway, Angela snorted. "If you wouldn't wear those ridiculous shoes."
I just made those up for illustration. There's nothing wrong with the first example. In fact, for scene setting it might be nice to compare the spring day to fresh cream and berries. But at some point, there absolutely must be conflict, or there is no story.

As you read the second example, notice that your interest is piqued. Angela and Brian are having some sort of fight. It's human nature that we become interested. Why are they fighting? What is going to happen next? Conflict compels the reader to continue reading.

Conflict can be anything that causes an upset. Yes, it can be a fight of some kind. Or it can be a million other things that represent our struggles as human beings. For example:

  • A character must decide whether to keep administering meds to her dying dog.
  • A family moves to a new town, and the mother is shunned by the other families in the neighborhood because she adopted one of her children from Sri Lanka.
  • A young man falls in love with his brother's girlfriend.
In other words, conflict can be fairly subtle. It doesn't have to involve swords, guns, shouting or maiming. The power of story is typically in the storytelling.

I read a lot of short stories, and small presses are a goldmine for intriguing flash fiction. I'll share an example of one I read today. The story appears in a back issue of Fish Food magazine, and is called "Marooned." The conflict is fairly simple: the character's girlfriend won't have sex with him. The story is well-told and compelling. This outwardly simple conflict makes him question multiple aspects of his life, and is resolved in a fascinating way.

That's it for this week's mini writing workshop!

Want to work with writers and editors to improve your writing? @tanglebranch runs "writers workout" workshops each week in The Writers' Block on Discord.

The writing workshop collection


You can browse my entire collection of writing workshop posts in the links below.

Mini workshop series


Short posts on specific writing topics:

Mini workshops in 50-word prompt posts

Brief workshops, typically 3-5 paragraphs, at the top of 50-word short story challenge posts:

In-depth workshop posts

The original writing workshop series: Thank you, as always, for reading, following, upvoting, connecting, HODL'ing, resteeming, laughing, sharing, and being you.

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Great explanation @jayna! I'm not a story writer, but I love how you tackle this topic in a very clear way including the examples :-) The many many links show you are very dedicated on these mini workshops, love it! :D

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Thanks so much, @soyrosa! I'm always hopeful that the tips and ideas are helpful to people. There are so many things to master, as a writer. I think it can really help to digest a few things at a time.