6. Conflict and Plot

Page 5 of 10 | What Is a Story? | Originality Counts | Gotta Have Structure | Set the Hook | Reel 'Em In | Land 'Em |
| What If I Don't Know? | Other Times, Other Worlds | Events Follow Character | Try This at Home! |

Middle: Reel 'em in
The middle is the main body of the story—no surprise there. But keep that image of a fisherman in your mind because in the body of the story, you need to keep them on the hook, keep them interested, keep them turning the pages. This is where you develop the characters and the conflict, of course; and it's also where you have to keep the tension rising and keep the story moving toward the climax.

There are many ways to do this, but one tried and true way is to get your hero into deep trouble right from the get-go. Then get him into worse trouble as the story winds along. Get him into trouble so desperate that his prospects seem utterly hopeless—and then turn the tide against him! When he is finally beaten down by insurmountable odds—when only a fool would continue in the face of certain defeat—only then does your hero somehow find the strength to persevere and to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It's an old formula, but a good one. You see it time and again, in books, TV, and the movies. The reason it's popular is that people like to cheer for the underdog; they like to see people they care about come back from nearly certain defeat; they like to see the good guy win through wits and guts and a never say die attitude. Life is full of trials and troubles, and often enough defeat, and it gives hope to see our fictional heroes prevail in spite of it all.

One way to think of it (at least for this kind of story) is the "rule of three." The first time your hero meets her adversary, she loses big time, which is a grave injustice. The second time, she's ready to come back and give the enemy a good thrashing; but it goes wrong, and she loses again, worse than before. Only on the third and final attempt does she win the day at last!

This can be hard to write because you have to make things painful for your hero. For the writer, it feels like inflicting pain on your own children. Remember, the tougher things look for your hero, and the bleaker her chances, the sweeter the victory when at last she prevails.

Plot twists and turns can keep a story interesting, but you must never let the dramatic tension flag. Tell the readers enough to keep them going, but hide enough to make them want to know more. Create suspense and keep it up.


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