Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin

Welcome to CAN’s new website from Gail Gaymer Martin. Today I will begin a new series on Tension and Confict which is a driving force in fiction writing. I hope you enjoy the seven articles on this topic.

The Set Up to Tension and Conflict
I recently presented a workshop on tension and conflict. The topic offers many steps to writing a good novel. I began this workshop with the basic elements needed to begin a novel because it sets up how conflict begins. Conflict is a concept you know is vital to any story. It is what drives your story and is an event that causes action between the opposition and the main character. Tension, on the other hand, is the character’s reaction to the event. This reaction arouses emotion of the character and the reader. Emotion is a must in any novel.

Vulnerable Characters
Major characters must be vulnerable. They have flaws, weaknesses, fears, and sinful behaviors which they often are trying to hide. Immediately you find tension inherent in this situation. Whenever a character wants to avoid facing a truth, tension creating emotion happens. Another side of these flaws and weaknesses might be the character’s inability or avoidance to face them. It is denial. I am not impatient. I do not look at everything in a negative way. I don’t feel sorry for myself. When you look at your own flaws, you can relate to this problem. No one wants to admit what makes them less than perfect.

Characters’ Goals
Every major character needs a goal. It is something they want to gain or something they want to avoid. They want to gain a good reputation. They want to avoid gossip. They want to find the treasure. They want to avoid being found. They want to find the killer. They want to avoid being killed. They want to find love. They don’t want to give up their freedom.

Goals fall into three other categories: possession, relief, or revenge. The character wants to possess wealth, charm, good looks, success, love. The character wants relief from fear, loneliness, hatred, domination, pain, sorrow. The character wants revenge for a loss, betrayal, lie, robbery, prejudice. You can add to the list with your own ideas that fit under possession, relief or revenge. Keep these ideas in mind as you create goals for your characters. Make sure the goal has issues that will create conflict.

The Hook
Every novel needs a hook, a premise that draws the readers in and an event that makes them curious or ask questions. A hook is introduced when something happens. It can be the result of a new character entering the scene, receiving a letter or phone call, being offered a proposition, reading something in a newspaper, or a character’s startling statement. Whatever it is, the thing that happens is best when it adds surprise, makes the readers ask questions, or creates an emotion that pulls the reader along.

Next, the “happening” creates opposition to the character’s goal. Opposition is conflict. Well-known writer, Dwight Swain, in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer, says that conflict can:
• Hinders
• Complicates
• Blocks
A goal is hindered when another conflict or another goal gets in the way, especially a goal that must be reached before the larger goal is accessible. Complications can involve an accident, another person demanding time or energy, a new piece of information that changes the direction of the goal. Finally goals can be blocked when someone gets there first or when someone removes options. I’m sure you can think of many other things to add to this list.

The next article will cover the Nature of Conflicts.

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutube

Gail_5Welcome to the CAN blog and some information about writing fiction from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailgaymermartin.com

Most writers learn how to create believeable main characters who are usual the man or woman bringing the story to life through their perceptions, emotions and actions, but learning how to use secondary characters is a different process altogether.

Numerous characters appear in your novels for realism and to provide a piece of action necessary to move the story forward or to broaden characterization of a main character. These walk-on characters might be referred to as the waiter, clerk, cab driver, mail carrier, baby sitter, maid, doorman, neighbor, a crowd or mob.

They have limited time in the story and so when using them remember to:

  1. Be specific only when necessary. If the person reappears for a key purpose use brief descriptions only, describe a feature that defines the character or the role he will play.
  2. Use an eccentricity only if the character needs to be remembered, perhaps as a witness to a crime.
  3. Use a name only when it points to a character’s ethnicity or physical characteristic: curly, Baldy, Bambi, Blimp, Shiny, Chan, Vito, or Gomez which will help the reader picture him.

Walk-ons serve a purpose to bring reality to the novel. A restaurant needs a waiter. A store needs a clerk, A taxi needs a driver. But these characters can also add an element of suspense when they seem nervous or edgy or they can bring comic relief to the novel. Think of the movie When Harry Met Sally and the restaurant scene when woman said to the waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.” This line accentuated the humor of the scene.

Secondary characters are different from walk-ons. They have a greater role in the novel, such as a relative, neighbor, or co-worker, and provide contrast, new information, or conflict to the story. They will appear in occasional scenes and add reality as well. Most people have a confidant that they discuss personal issues in their lives or coworkers who join them for lunch. These characters have names—Grandma, Ethel, Uncle Joe, Bill.  Some description and personality traits are provided to make these characters three-dimensional. Their traits often moves the story along—the wisdom provider, the commonsense giver, the time-user, the empathy shower, or the one who is the “life’s not perfect” reminder.

Secondary characters can:

Serve as a contrast to the main character.

Provide key information that helps move the story forward

Provide backstory moments

Assist the main character in brainstorming solutions to conflicts

Create conflicts or undermine characters progress

Serve as a red-herring in suspense or thriller

Provide a backdrop for the main character to express concerns or choices

Both walk-ons and secondary characters are important to a novel just as various people enter our lives to provide a service, cause change or create an outlet for ideas and solutions. Use them wisely. Don’t give a walk-on too much importance or you will confuse the reader and don’t neglect bringing the secondary character to life to the degree they are significant to the story.

I’d love to hear your ideas and additions to this list. Please leave a comment.

 

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutube

Gail Gaymer Martin Hi from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com The last time I blogged about outlining, I covered the first point from the Gideon Film Festival on Outlining for Screenwriting. The first point was on creating a theme. The next point deals with the topic of creating characters arcs. Whether writing a novel or screen writing, character arcs are a vital element of good writing.

Read More →

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutubeFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinrssyoutube