Sunday, June 17, 2012

Creating Conflict Workshop Notes

Hello Friends,

I taught a three hour class on writing for the "Write for the Heights" Cottonwood Arts council yesterday, June 16, at the Whitmore Library. I had a fantastic turnout, 25 attendees. The crowd was really great and we had such a fun time. Below are some of my notes, which I promised to post on my blog. We discussed the main types of stories and the inherent conflict in each story. I went over the plots to illustrate the traditional conflict in each one.

I spoke for an hour, then we took a break. Then a little more speaking (more on micro conflict), and then we broke into small groups for a while. Then back together for my final thoughts and questions.

“Creating Conflict” Workshop Outline
by Author and Editor Paul Genesse for
“Write for the Heights.”

Blurb for the conference about the workshop:

Creating Conflict: Make war, not peace! Ruffle the feathers of your characters. Stir the pot of emotions. Add a fistfight or two. Craft a clever and entertaining argument among your heroes. Not all conflict has to be bloody or increase the body count, but it does have to keep the reader turning the pages. Author and editor, Paul Genesse (juh-NESS) will discuss the art of adding conflict to your stories, and will guide you through a hands-on workshop which will include creating, revising, and crafting fiction that will make your work stand out above the rest.

Course outline: one hour presentation on how to add conflict to stories as detailed in the blurb, going over the importance of tension, and conflict. I’ll go over some basic story structures, focusing on how conflict can be created with each story type, as well as how the plot and characters should be designed to increase the conflict and tension.

I will go over the basics and will discuss the common story structures and the inherent conflict in each:

Seven-element story structure:

1. Character in a
2. Context with a
3. Conflict
4. Tries to solve,
5. but fails until it reaches a (escalating cycle, until things are as bad as they can possibly be)
6. Climax, when she succeeds or fails
7. Resolves, (dénouement or validation)

The three basic stories of James Gunn, Robert Heinlein, and others:
1. Boy Meets Girl (Romeo and Juliet)
2. The Man Who Learned Better (Gran Turino)
3. The Clever Little Tailor (Indiana Jones)

Six Fundamental Conflicts of Aristotle:
1. Man against man
2. Man against nature
3. Man against himself
4. Man against society
5. Man against god
6. Man against machine

Six fundamental story types by Damon Knight
1. The story of resolution (the hero has a problem and solves it)
2. The story of revelation (something hidden is revealed)
3. The trick ending story (surprising twist)
4. The story of decision (ends in a decision, not necessarily action
5. The story of explanation (explains a mystery)
6. The story of solution (solves a puzzle)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Plot Types per James Gunn
1. Far traveling
2. The wonders of science
3. Humanity/the individual and the machine
4. Progress
5. The individual and society
6. Humanity/the individual
7. War
8. Cataclysm
9. Humanity/the individual and the environment
10. Superpowers
11. Superman/superwoman
12. Humanity/the individual and the alien
13. Humanity/the individual and religion spirituality
14. Miscellaneous glimpses of the future and past

1. Far traveling
2. The quest
3. Strange powers
4. People and the powerful/omnipotent other
5. People and or animals
6. People and magic (or other unscientific sciences)
7. The individual and society
8. Wonders we can touch
9. Good vs. Evil
10. Balance
11. Questioning reality

Once I’ve gone over all of these, the class will be broken up into small groups, then we will take a short break where participants can get to know each other for a moment and discuss their own stories, focusing on micro conflict.

Link to all my published works:
Which include a dozen short stories and three novels, plus two anthologies where I served as the editor in chief.


feywriter said...

Thanks for the notes, Paul. Amazing how quick those three hours went. Thank you for the great workshop. I even got a few new writing buddies from the small groups. :)

Paul Genesse said...

Hi Mary,

I know! The three hours flew by for me too. I'm so glad you found some new writer buddies. The class was so fun for me too

Thanks again for coming and I hope to see you around sometime. Friend me on Facebook if you're into that. I checked out your blog, keep up all the great work.

Your new writer friend,

Paul Genesse