Saturday, August 2, 2014

Conflicting Conflictions

  • Insanely long book finished (check!)

  • Veggies growing in my garden (check!)

  • Camping trip a success (check!)

  • Various other fun summer activities (check!)

It is absolutely time to get back to this blog. 


  • When a tornado rips through the town mere miles from your house in the middle of the night, memories are created that last for years.

  • When your friends go on vacation without you, then you later find out they took two other couples in your place, you feel hurt or maybe a little jealous.
  • When your four year old comes home crying because she wants a swimming suit just like LuLu’s even though there are already three perfectly good swimming suits in her drawer…  well, you roll your eyes for a moment and remember when you were a child and only had one swimming suit that was getting too small because you had already worn it for three summers.   
But that is not the point.  She’s sad, drama has entered her life and she will need to decide how to deal with these uncontrollable feelings.  Just like you with the tornado, and you with your former friends – conflict happens. Conflict keeps our lives interesting

We would have far fewer conversations if there were no conflict in our lives. Our lunch time stories would be boring and our friends would get bored with us.  (and us with them)

For better or worse, conflict (and conflict resolution) keeps our lives interesting. 
Perhaps this is why so many American’s love reality TV.

The best novels, like our lives, are filled with conflict.  What the characters do with their conflicting situations is what makes them relatable. We want the characters in our books to grow and change and evolve by the time the book is done.

There are two kinds of conflict: Emotional and Physical.
Physical conflict is created by the uncontrollable, or unknown world. A tornado, a forest fire, a car that has run out of gas, a relative that is late to dinner.  

Emotional conflict is created by the character’s emotions and how they relate, respond, and react in a given situation?  Who is oblivious? Who is deceitful? Who is overly dramatic? Who gets angry and reactive?
Relationships are misunderstood, situations become overly dramatic, feelings are hurt. 
This is the best kind of conflict to present to your characters. 

Emotional conflict opens up a world of possibilities for the growth of your characters.  Will they learn and grow from their situations? Will they retreat and hide?  Will they refuse to take responsibility for their reactions? Will they swear off coconut and volleyballs forever just to be stranded on an island for 15 years?

It’s not who your characters are at the beginning of a story that makes them interesting, it’s who they are at the end.

And although this individual journey is easier (not easy, but easier) to convey over 300 pages, it can also be done over 30.

As a children’s book author you have to keep in mind that the drama in our kids world is much smaller and simpler than it is in our adult world.  The drama that might take 6 months to unfold and resolve itself my world might only take 6 hours in my daughter’s. 
Use that perspective when helping your characters grow and change. 

Instead of an Ebola outbreak in the US keeping our kids up at night, it’s a lost shoe or the fact that; “mom made mushrooms again with dinner even though she knows I hate mushrooms!”
Check out this link to get a better idea of the kinds of things that create conflict for our kids… and for a good laugh.

and although there are a few overlapping photos...

Use these dramatic, mundane events as inspiration and remember:

  • Kids are scared by things that may seem funny or unimportant to adults
  • Kids worry about things that may seem trivial
  • Kids are just starting to learn about human interaction and relationships.

Your children’s story conflicts do not need to be deep or involved, but they do need to exist to make your story memorable.

Go forth and make your stories memorable!

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