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Write this scene, any feel, writing style; any genre. This is a rough draft writing practice.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

 

Paradise

 

The sun sparkling on the sea behind him in a dancing promise of hope fed into the lie that is the beach paradise. The breeze barely breathed on the softly swaying palm fronds. It was perfect. Each second we faced off it felt increasingly too perfect. Off.

This man, who refused to give his name, stood resolute in his defection from the normal. His eyes were narrowed in determination, or perhaps against the sun. His face held no real emotion. Not anger or determination. He just was.

“It’s all a lie,” he said. “Your world. The sea, trees, even this.”

He knelt and scooped up a fistful of sand. He stood again and held the fist out towards me as though I should take it. I could only stare at that closed fist. He waved it towards people in the distance, roaming slowly up the beach.

“They are a lie. Toxic.”

“They’re just people,” I said.

He shook his head slowly at my foolishness. He seemed saddened by my failure to see. This man, this stranger in a weakened paradise, thrust his fist toward me again.

“You would take strength from this… this false promise of a better tomorrow. It never gets better. It’s just another today. This earth,” he started letting the sand fall in a slow stream from his hand, “is weak. It’s is poisoned, pale.”

“It’s pale because it’s sand.”

He stared at me, pale sand trickling in a soft sieving from his fist.

My focus on his face and that falling sand, I did not see the twitch of his shoulder muscle preceding his body moving until it was too late. He had me by the shirt, fabric twisted in his fist as he yanked me off balance towards him, holding me up with seemingly impossible strength.

“I will show you then.”

My mouth gaped open in silent shocked protest; he rammed his fist at it. I was certain he meant to punch me in the teeth, but instead he was shoving sand into my mouth. I choked and gagged on the surprise of it, on its crunchy grittiness and the though in my head of its uncleanliness.

The sudden lurching of my heaving stomach felt like a gut punch. My eyes watered and my limbs felt weakened.

He released me then, letting me fall limply to the ground where I mewled and pawed weakly at the sand. The same sand that was inside my mouth, my throat. I coughed and it was sucked into my lungs, choking me with its grainy dust.

The burning foulness set in then, my tongue and mouth on fire, the sand eating through taste buds like dull acid.

Pawing at my mouth only made it worse. Mewling and simpering weakly in the sand, the granules clung to my hands and I only managed to shove more inside my mouth. My throat screamed with it and I moaned, gasped, inhaling it deeper into my tortured lungs. I couldn’t cry out. Could only gasp weaker as the strength and all of my feeble fight left me.

I lay in the sand softly moaning, stomach dissolving and lungs struggling. My nose was pressed against the sand, breathing in its subtle saltiness.

“If you are still here tomorrow you will be dead,” he said simply. “This place will poison you.”

He walked away and did not look back.

I would have swore I was already dead.

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Photo by Jonathan Harrison on Unsplash

Photo by Jonathan Harrison on Unsplash

In the real world, the smart thing to do is to avoid conflict. Run away, go the other way; say no to indulging it and lead a peaceful conflict free life. Okay, pick yourself off the floor and stop laughing. We all know that too often human nature is to go against what is the smart thing to do.

 

 

 

Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

 

 

Whether you are in grade school, high school, adulting at work, a news media, social media butterfly, or an author writing a story, what makes tongues wag is conflict, drama. The bigger the conflict, more intense the drama, the harder people dig themselves into its destructive black heart with a twisted glee or foreshadowing sense of impending doom. Why? You’ve got me. I have no idea. It seems kind of sick, really. But, people are inexplicably drawn to the tragedy of others. They mourn for others’ torment, fear they themselves could have been the victims, and are filled with a sick relief to have been spared. Perhaps it is born of an instinct for self-preservation. To protect yourself from an enemy, be it living or circumstance, you must know of its existence and understand it in order to protect yourself from it. Like knowing that crawling into a ceramics kiln might be your best chance to survive a raging fire (a guy actually did that in the 2019/20 Australia bush fires), how to avoid getting sucked down with a sinking ship (i.e. the dude from Titanic, although I don’t know if that would work in real life), going to ground in a culvert during a tornado, silver works against werewolves, and that fear of a deity more powerful than themselves may save you from a vampire.

 

 

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

 

As writers, we must embrace conflict. Seek it out, find insidious ways to secretly feed it, nurture it, and set it loose on our characters’ lives. It is what drives people and stories forward.

 

The challenge in creating conflict and building drama in your story is making it believable and fit with the story and characters. For that, you need to understand it. You also need to give it a purpose.

 

In both writing and real life conflict comes in different forms, within and outside of our control. At is basest level conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces; your character and what they want against an obstacle that is in their way.

 

 

Conflict creates tension, drives the story forward, and can be used to reveal weaknesses, motivations, and deeper meanings behind your characters’ actions. It can be internal (‘You’ – Joe Goldberg’s conflict with his own inner self wanting to be a better person vs. the inability to stop himself from stalking and killing again) or external (‘Alien’ – Ellen Ripley battling the queen bee alien to save herself and the little girl).

 

Although some will argue there are six or seven types of conflict, I have no doubt we as writers can collectively come up with well more than that. More as society and technology continues to progress. Here are some common types of conflict.

 

Types of Conflict:

Character vs. character

Character vs. extraterrestrial

Character vs. fate

Character vs. gods

Character vs. nature

Character vs. self

Character vs. society

Character vs. supernatural

Character vs. technology

Character vs. unknown

 

Your story will invariably involve one of these conflicts. It will probably have more than one woven together. Your main character may be torn by their own internal conflict, fighting their own inner demons while also pitting their beliefs in their god against their society they find themselves at odds with as they disagree with the people in their lives after learning of new technologies and sciences with the discovery of an extraterrestrial life that changes everything they thought they knew and threatens to bring destruction to the planet.

 

There, we have inner and outer conflict; character vs. self, character vs. god, character vs. society,

character vs. character, character vs. technology, character vs. extraterrestrial, and potentially character vs. unknown. With multiple main and secondary characters, protagonists vs. antagonists, you can have competing conflicts between various characters.

 

 

Photo by John T on Unsplash

Photo by John T on Unsplash

How do you keep all these conflicts straight? Your story needs to flow, one conflict feeding the next, complimenting with and clashing against each other without leaving the reader scratching their heads in confusion and wondering if you forgot what story you were writing. Like creating character profile worksheets, you can create conflict worksheets. There is no rule on the right or wrong way to set one up. Create it to meet your needs.

 

Conflict worksheets can help you keep multiple conflicts straight and with brainstorming how to make them happen.

 

If you are keeping your conflicts simpler, you probably have no problem keeping them on track without a worksheet. However, if you are going Game of Thrones epic complicated, you may need help keeping track of who has what conflict with who/what, when, how they intertwine, and where/how they will climax and resolve.

 

Creating a Conflict Worksheet:

Like building a Character profile, I would start with the basics of the conflict. The more complex the conflict is, the more complicated the details will be. Think of your 5 W’s from grade school English Language Arts: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and that oddball How.

 

  • Primary Character: Who is having the conflict
  • Conflict Antagonist: Who or what are they up against
  • Type of Conflict: What is the conflict
  • Conflict Location: where and when does the conflict happen
  • Secondary Characters: Who else is involved in the conflict

 

Build up the reasoning behind the conflict and the cause and effects.

  • Protagonist Motivation: What motivates the character to resolve the conflict
  • Antagonist Motivation: What motives the character/other to cause the conflict

* Fun note: the protagonists/antagonists of the story can be switched up in their roles in a conflict, the protagonist (hero) of the story being the antagonist in the conflict.

  • Character Strengths/Flaws: How does this drive or affect the conflict and its resolution
  • Internal Conflict: How is the character(s) affected internally, how they respond
  • External Conflict: How is the character(s) affected externally, how they respond
  • Character Development: How does the conflict change/develop the character(s)
  • Story Development: How does the conflict change/develop the storyline

 

With every great conflict comes a great resolution. How are you going to resolve it?

  • Who will resolve the conflict
  • How and when they will resolve the conflict
  • Character Affects: How resolving the conflict changes/affects the character(s)
  • Story Affects: How resolving the conflict changes/affects the story
  • Lead in: Does it lead to another conflict
  • Fallout: No good conflict is truly resolved. What are the lasting after-effects? This can also give you a lead in to new conflicts that drive the story forward.

 

Conflicts need to be fed. With the rise and fall of a story arc, your conflicts have their own arc. They start, build, climax, ease, build to a larger climax, and finally are resolved, devolving into the fallout and picking up of the pieces. You want to build up the readers’ expectations and give them a sense of resolution without leaving a lot of loose ends. This means you need to create a little chaos and order. Come up with ways you can compound and resolve the conflict. Make a list and jot down the details.

 

 

  • Action
  • Advice
  • Apologies
  • Complaints
  • Conversations
  • Death
  • Deflection
  • Departure
  • Discovery
  • Dishonesty
  • Empathy
  • Error
  • Honesty
  • Inaction
  • Inattention
  • Incentives
  • Information
  • Orders
  • Outside Help
  • Persuasion
  • Punishment
  • Questions
  • Reflection
  • Requests
  • Supplication
  • Threats
  • Urgency
  • Violence

 

 

If you have all of this, you are ready to go forth and work your conflicts into your outline. Or, if you write by the seat of your pants like me, you may be developing this worksheet as your story progresses as a reference to keep your details straight.

 

 

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.polar bear scream and poop

It’s one of those ugly little things in life.

Everybody’s poop stinks.

How many of us try to avoid using a public washroom when you have to go “number two”, fearing embarrassment that someone else might smell our stink.

How many of us have had the misfortune of walking into a bathroom to be encased in the stench of doom aka the odious odor of the sulfurous mushy mass of bacteria ravaged compounds (poop) that had been deposited and flushed just before?  Your automatic reaction is to cringe, gag, gasp for air only to suck in a mouthful of stink and gag again because oh for pity sake I can TASTE it.  You hold your breath in disgust and make a hasty retreat.

This is the universal kind of experience you know your readers can relate to.

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moodCreating mood is essential to good story telling.  Your readers will read your story, that’s the given obvious.  But will they just read it, or will the experience it?

How will you draw them into the story?  To make them feel what your characters feel?  To feel like they are really there?

In short, triggers.  Memory is a powerful tool.  Certain things can trigger memories, both latent and cognisant memories.

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stinkyOlfactory senses can trigger both of these.  We aren’t there yet to create books full of scents that tease your nose to match the scene on the page.  Maybe someday, but not yet.  And scratch and sniff is not feasible.  Besides, who would actually by a book that smells of poop?  So, it’s probably a good thing.

By adding in your characters’ reactions to their surroundings, the smells that are ever present but suddenly brought to your characters’ attention by what is happening in their world, you can trigger the memory of those smells in your reader.  That, my friend, pulls the reader inside the world on your pages.  The sudden assault on their senses of the sweet perfume of roses when they walk through the garden gate before they can see what the yard beyond holds, perhaps to find a contradictory scene of ruin beyond the remains of the first spoiled rose bushes laying tattered on the ground just inside the gate.

Whether the scents are pleasant or vile, expected or out of place, they can trigger in your reader an automatic response they don’t even realise they are having.  A subliminal affect that pulls them ever deeper into the drama unfolding for your characters.  And when they purposely draw on a memory the scent brings to their mind, it brings your story home to them, making both author and the story more memorable.

Anyone can write a mediocre/good story.  It takes work and attention to detail to write a great story.

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where the bodies areL.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are
What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

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Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon:  The McAllister Farm.  Take a step back into time to learn the secret behind the bodies.

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Garden Grove-title & bad bullet holeAlso coming soon:  Garden Grove.  Vandalism, altered blueprints, an entire work crew poisoned, and someone is planting old human remains, all apparently to stop the Garden Grove community development.  Who is trying to stop it and why?

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Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

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