2. What we’ll cover...
Stories are challenges too great for
the protagonist to currently
handle. They need constraints and
limitations that force them to act
out of character until they’re
increasingly in emotional turmoil.
Unresolved conflict drives story.
LACK of information drives
intrigue. Introduce the questions
and uncertainty before you deliver
Why it matters
3. What’s the REAL story?
Main Plot (what)
creates tension that
leads to awareness
◈ Values in CONFLICT.
Side Plot (why)
Integral to main story.
Experienced, but not
chosen. This witnessing
◈ World worth saving
Sub Plot (how)
Brooding tensions or
lingering questions that
get resolved as
character’s knowledge or
◈ Backstory info, history,
◈ Things that *might* matter
or *could* matter.
◈ Red herrings (hint wrong;
elude grasp; unresolved
The choices need to be hard enough to create
fear, insecurity & indecision.
Sideplot (an unrelated conflict) that perfectly mirrors the main
character’s difficult choice and allows them to see a mockup of
how things play out; creates awareness that gives them a glimpse
at a way forward, or at least process their own fears and desires.
Charlotte Brontë, Emma
Each character’s unique challenge will match their
personal weakness or fear. The price for victory is the
one thing they have so far refused to do, or something
they cannot give up or bear to lose.
It matters, it is remarkable, because it forced your
protagonist to change.
◈ The challenge matches the character’s
weakness. And some text
◈ Beginning/end foil
◈ Rim of the World/Mare of Easttown
Why are they willing to put themselves in this identity-
destroying conflict, rather than just giving up or running away?
Why do they stay in THIS fight, when they’ve run from similar
ones? If they weren’t ready at the beginning, why are they
ready now – what changed in them, as a result of your story’s
YOUR BOOK = THE CONTEXT FOR THE MOMENT OF CHANGE
8. Fixing Plot Holes
◈ Why are the characters doing this?
(what are they hoping to achieve)
◈ Why does it matter?
(how do they feel about it)
Your protagonist needs to have a strong, consistent internal compass, and it needs to be revealed
through incidents that establish their character. This is who they are. Without this reliable core
identity, we won’t be able to tell a story that forces them to change.
10. Your Conclusion Might Include
Physical tension as allies perform
a tug-of-war battle against
resistance, that shows how
difficult this struggle is, and how
much force is required.
The consideration phase, as
characters are tempted last
minute or the price for victory is
The final flashback, as the full
backstory is revealed so we can
see exactly why this conflict is so
difficult or meaningful for the
a rule that must be broken (giving
up who I am for a greater good,
but it must be incredibly difficult
the sweet memories that give
them awareness that this fight is
worth the cost or risk (you need
to show them making the choice,
knowing what they will lose).
◈ Unexpected Victory (who they
ARE, not what they DO)
◈ Conditional Success (the
necessary change when all is lost)
11. Scene Checklist
1. Where/who is doing what
2. What new/different/unexpected thing happens that forces response
3. How do people respond in a way that shows character and introduces conflict
4. How does this conflict build to impasse?
5. What are the physical manifestations of emotional overwhelm?
6. How is this temporarily resolved?