LDStorymakers Conference Notes #2:
Clint Johnson—Conflict and the Mechanism of Story Part 1
Writing is primarily a craft/skill that can be learned. If you work hard enough, you will be published. Writers need two dominant skill sets: 1) Language—learned by exposure, and 2) Narrative/Story—universal human language. Take conscious control over your own creative process.
Components of Writing were compared to an engine. You need more than a spark plug. You need all the parts put together. Think of the story as a whole and conflict is the fuel. Conflict is the most essential component. We want high grade fuel.
1. Conflict forces action. Characters don’t want to break routines or risk failure. Conflict forces them to act or go away from routine.
2. Action reveals character. These actions show who they are.
3. Revealed character facilitates reality. Characters do things that feel authentic, make the distance between reader and story narrow. Reader believes.
4. As disbelief is suspended, identification increases (identify with characters). Begin with an individual instead of something universal. The individual will go toward the universal and a broad audience can identify with it.
5. Transmission of emotions/meaning. We tell stories to figure out what they mean. Even data has to be interpreted. Lead the reader into a different place through one set of facts. Story = mechanism of meaning. This is how we are wired to think.Don’t write for interest/theme sake. Write for emotion. Some people read for ideas more than emotion. Someone interested in your story idea will pick it up anyway. We read for a vicarious experience of emotions.
You might want to try this exercise Clint has us do. Start with a story idea you want to write about. 1. Identify a protagonist need. 2. Identify an opposition to that need. 3. Identify the initial action the protagonist will take. This is a good way to start your story. Good luck!