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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

CONFLICT[ED] - IWSG March 2022

It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous Alex Cavanaugh. Thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Janet Alcorn, Pat Garcia, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon LawrenceTo find links to other IWSG contributors, click here.

March Question: Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?

A long time ago, a writing instructor said, “Think about the worst possible thing you can do to your characters and make it happen.” With that in mind, I figured out I needed to kill off the character in the novel I was working on who was the single force mending a family wrought with discord. Decision made, I procrastinated for two weeks. I loved him. I couldn’t imagine writing the scene—but the story was a lot of bla, bla, bla if he didn’t go, so eventually, I pulled up my big-girl writer pants and got on with it, bawling away while I typed.

Nowadays, I make bad things happen, but not always bad enough. Someone from my writing group recently described a couple of chapters I read as “pleasant,” an exceptional example of what my father used to call, “damning, with faint praise.” Time to ratchet up the conflict, Liza. But how much?

I’m currently reading a novel recommended by a friend about couple in a struggling relationship who agree to live on a sailboat with their young kids for a year. Think, four people confined to a miniscule space, away from all the comforts they’ve known. Everything about the trip has been more expensive than planned. Unbeknownst to the wife, they are underwater financially. They’ve lost their satellite phone overboard, are out of cash and almost out of food when their engine quits. Anchored off a group of islands near South America, they don’t speak the local dialect. The husband has to leave his family on the boat while he travels for several days to get parts, and his wife isn’t an experienced sailor. All I can hear is, dun, dun, dun…

Here's the deal. This author has mastered conflict and suspense. The writing is excellent and the storyline is gripping. But, I keep putting the book down because I’m too worried about what’s coming next. Things keep getting worse. I know it’s NOT going to end well and it’s causing me so much anxiety I’m not sure I’ll finish. I have enough to be anxious about in real life.

Hence, my dilemma: how do I find a middle ground between writing a book that’s so stressful a sissy reader like me puts it aside, and writing a story that’s merely “pleasant?”

Somehow, I’ve got to find it.

How do you deal with writing conflict?