Writing Scintillating Scenes––Part VI

This time, we’ll look at tension and conflict from a different perspective, an uncommon and sometimes unconscious way of looking at it. We do it in our everyday lives, and it has the potential of creating peace or conflict––negotiation. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

It is understood that conflict is at the heart of out stories. It drives the action, forces character change, and keeps things interesting. But what if we thought about tension from a different perspective?

Instead of thinking about conflict and tension in “war” like terms, such as “hitting the mark,” or “attacking the subject,” contemplate the complications and subtleties of the story––where many issues may be in play at the same time.

Fiction itself is a process of changes, and the heart of interior (character) change is discovery or recognition, the revelation of something not comprehended before. This can come about in a variety of ways.

Think about the main genres where conflict is usually a direct confrontation. My genre is western, and you can easily get the image of a gunfight in the street, or a barroom brawl. Outright anger is openly expressed, but in many instances and many stories, conflict is couched in characters dancing around the issues, or touching on issues that have no bearing on what the real source of tension is. Arguments can be cut short or delayed for another time.

Negotiation in a scene is an exchange of character desires, denials, and relenting, until some sort of peace is carved out, or else everything falls apart and the conflict becomes open.


Compiling Strategies: Put together of a list of approaches and tactics to argue or connive in order to get their way. Take some of these items from within stories you admire. And, take them from real life. Write a brief scene or story summary that employs these strategies, making them your own.

Suppressed Defiance: Write a scene where one character is powerless and is being ordered to do something by someone in authority. Let the underdog character still show respect for authority, but find a way from openly defying the order. Use physical movements, interior responses, and possible attempts to reason with the character, as well as anything else you come up with.

Open Defiance: A direct imbalance of power between the characters and the “weaker” person will not accept it. Plan how the weaker character will express their resistance. Will it result in a change of the balance of power? Do things get worse? Remember that more than two characters can be in a scene of this type.

Pull-away Love: Write a scene where one of the two begins to pull away from the relationship, something the other person wants to keep status quo. Having a particular subject in mind for this scene will be helpful, something they can negotiate for.

Using this technique of negotiation in writing your scenes will be polish and make them shine. Think of negotiation as haggling with finesse. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

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