Let’s Talk

01 Dec

I’m confessing my deep, dark secret, that’s not a secret.  I am trying to make sense of creating a story.

Yes, I’ve completed several manuscripts.

I’ve won contests.

No, I haven’t sold a book.

I’ve had positive rejections.  I call that close, but not close enough.

I know what my issue is, or should I say issues.

  1. I hate to create problems for my characters.

I hate conflict.  I rarely watch those crazy reality shows where you have folks bickering.  They annoy me.  Come on.  Are you telling me that adults can’t sit down and work out their problems in a mature fashion?  Grow up!

Okay, that being said, bickering isn’t the way to go.  The characters need to have a deep, gut level conflict.  It’s not a conflict where they can be mature.  That’s where “gut level” comes in.  The conflict has to go to the heart of the character.  It’s something that has a normal person acting in a surprising way.

So what do you do to create this deep, gut level conflict?

You have to know your character.  You have to know what would trip their switch.  You have to know what will set them on a journey they don’t want to take.

Sounds easy.

Why haven’t I sold a book?

Oh, because it’s hard.  Well, at least for me.

  1. I need to create people who don’t live in a special bubble.

I am going to admit this problem.  I need to do a better job of busting that bubble and creating people who are living full lives.  They are balancing more than one plate in their hands, they’ve got more than they can handle, yet I’ve got to pile more on, until things topple and the characters find themselves neck deep in a big mess.

In a previous post, “Let’s Go on a Journey,” Act II consists of Tests and Trials, Allies and Enemies.  I created a grid to fill in the issues the characters must deal with.  My hope is this tool will take me closer to my goal, improving my craft.

What have you done to make sense of creating characters?


Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Idaho


26 responses to “Let’s Talk

  1. Carley Ash

    December 1, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    This is so true, Lynn. It’s hard to create problems for someone else even if they’re fictional characters. We create them. They’re our babies. We don’t want them hurt.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:18 PM

      Carley, so true. In real life, I work to avoid conflict. It’s difficult for me, a make-it-right person to make-it wrong.

  2. Laura Dion-Jones

    December 1, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    Through your wonderful writing here, you have all become my friends.

  3. Janis McCurry

    December 1, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    I suffer from the same problem. Truly horrific issues bother me, so I tend not to go there. I try to focus on problems that cause the characters to grow rather than things that are visited upon them externally, i.e., crime, injury, unfaithfulness.

    I have to continue to work on those transformational arcs until they resonate with an audience.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:21 PM

      Janis, transformational arcs are a pain.

  4. Kyrsten

    December 1, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    I am so THERE with you Lynn.

    But, you haven’t given up on it and you are growing through the conflict! LOL

    I think that is why I continue to participate even though I’m on a writing winter. It give me an avenue to continue to learn and grow since writing is life.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:23 PM

      Kyrsten, I’m glad you understand my issue. You are using your time to learn and grow. When the winter ends, you’ll be ready to roar.

  5. Liz Fredericks

    December 1, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    I love true confessions, Lynn! I think I’ve the exact opposite problem – my characters are too tortured. So, you tell me how to lighten up a bit so my precious ones can fall in love and I’ll tell you how to tap that gut level conflict. Deal?

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:23 PM

      Liz, you’ve got a deal.

  6. Meredith Conner

    December 1, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    The last time I tortured my heroine I darn near cried. I had to contact Liz and have her tell me I wasn’t an awful person, I felt so bad! Then I came back later that day and wrote a flurry of words to get my heroine past her torment so I could sleep 🙂

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:25 PM

      Meredith, you had Liz there to walk you through the rough patch. This torture, is torture.

  7. Paty Jager

    December 1, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    I was at a workshop with Bob Mayer this fall. He said don’t work on the things you do well, work on the things you do wrong. In other words, confront what scares you and tackle it. It will not only make your writing better it will take it to a whole different level.

    I agree with this. Once I realized my characters had to have conflict I also dug deeper and brought out more emotion in the characters and made the story better on more than one level.

    So find your fear and tackle it! You’ll see a wonderful improvement in your writing!

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:25 PM

      Thanks Paty, I’ll work on it.

  8. Clarissa Southwick

    December 1, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    Lynn, I’ve read your work and it’s hard to match your sense of humor. You’re on your way to publication 🙂 But as for making things hard on characters, I usually just ask, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen now and/or what would make him act that way?

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:28 PM

      Clarissa, you are so kind. I’ll continue to work on “the worst possible thing that could happen.”

  9. ramblingsfromtheleft

    December 1, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Lyn, sometimes what I do is use the conflicts or problems of mine or people I know. Don’t feel bad if your characters go through hell before they see the other side of the rainbow. After all there will be a happy ending in the end 🙂

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:30 PM

      You are right. No matter what happens to these people, I can make certain they get a happy ending.

  10. Marsha R. West

    December 1, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I guess, I’m a real Pollyanna. I can’t stand to see the bad things come. I need a little conflict, but not huge mega awful stuff. I’ve stopped reading a couple of books because I sensed how bad it was going to get, and, as a reader, I didn’t want to go there.

    So, Lynn, I’m impressed with you facing the issue and resolving to attack it. Good luck with breaking through.

    As a writer, I tiptoe around the edges. (Oh, I’ve got my internal external chart and swear by it.) In planning for my 6th book that I’m about 1/3 of the way through on a really rough first draft, I wrote in a conflict and then shouted, “OMG. How do you come back from that?” Probably not going to include that particular conflict. LOL Ah, writing is such a fun journey. 🙂 Great post, Lynn.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:32 PM

      Thanks Marsha, the journey can be difficult, but I’ve got to deal with it.

  11. Peggy Staggs

    December 1, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    We all have our themes. Mine is redemption. When I start a new book I think what in this person’s past made them chose the way they have? Then I turn the screws and make it worse. The worst part is the temptation to get them out of trouble too soon. I don’t know if it works, because I haven’t sold yet either.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:33 PM

      Peggy, selling a book is really, really, hard work.

  12. Mary Vine

    December 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    At least you are aware of your difficulties which is half the battle. You know and you’ve researched it. It’s not all inspiration now is it? Lots of hard work, too. Thanks, Lynn!

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 1, 2011 at 7:34 PM

      Hi Mary, half the battle still leaves another half to battle. I’m working to cross that mid line.

  13. Susan Russo Anderson

    December 2, 2011 at 7:23 AM

    Hello Everyone,

    Gosh I love this post and the phrase, “transformational arc.” It’s really making me think about the nature and depth of conflict in characters and how to have the tough love enough to let them be in that place, let them act so that I won’t like them or readers won’t like them.

    I’m thinking right now about the writers whose works I love to read. They seem to place their characters in dire settings from the beginning. I mean, something catastrophic is part of the backstory: it has already happened to the character or to those around them before the story begins, so that their characters are off-kilter from the giddy up and it doesn’t take much to tip them over the edge. Think job loss, home loss, child loss, something that causes mental upheaval.

    And there is always a part in the novel where I, the reader, am disgusted with the main character. “Why did she do that, say that, why did he act that to his best friend, set the barn on fire? Why did she withhold that information from her best friend? What’s wrong with this writer? Why does she create characters like that?” It’s at that part, I think, in the arc where I know the conflict has gone close enough to the bone.

    Easy to know it when you read it in somebody else’s work. Not easy to write. I’m on the umpteenth try, I’ve got my fingers crossed.

  14. Lynn Mapp

    December 2, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    Hi Susan, I like Susan Elizabet Phillips because she starts the book as everything is falling apart. Writing takes work. You know that, and so do I.


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