Hello friends, and welcome back to another post where my brain attempts to break down complex story concepts for fun! Today we're going ...

Hello friends, and welcome back to another post where my brain attempts to break down complex story concepts for fun! Today we're going to be looking at tension and conflict, and the types we can utilize to heighten story drama. Hopefully today's post will help you if you've ever had struggles developing conflict throughout a narrative!

Last week I hit the thirty or so percent mark of my WIP, Call of the Vanished, and felt something was really lacking. The plot was wandering, the characters moped around, and nothing seemed to be happening. I took a brief break from it, and when I returned, I realized that what I needed was, simply, conflict. I had built it up nicely in the beginning, but it had begun to fall away in the later scenes.



There are two key sources of conflict, but there is so much more within each one. Telling you to go add "internal conflict" or some "external conflict" into your scene doesn't paint a clear picture of what your story really needs. So what makes up internal and external conflict?


Internal

Internal conflict is everything going on inside of your character's head. Often we're our own worst enemies, and the way that we perceive situations, conversations, and ourselves, can help or hinder our physical actions. While antagonists are the favourite for throwing troubles at characters, the strongest and most powerful stories incorporate both types, with a focus on internal to communicate theme. Here are some types of internal conflict:

1) Fear vs Desire: Abbie Emmons introduced me to this on her Youtube channel (I highly recommend it!) and it's a brilliant idea. Every character wants something, but if they immediately get it, there's no point to the story. Instead, something should hold them back, such as a fear they have to struggle through to get what they desire.

2) Past vs Present: It can take years or decades to work through past hurts and mistakes, especially when they're repressed. But having past hurts brought up forces characters to reevaluate whether or not they want to forgive, or let go, a battle that can lead the soul to breaking point.

3) Lie vs Truth: Every character believes in some form of lie, whether about themselves, others, or the world. Character arcs often revolve around the character's journey from believing the lie to the truth, but it's never an easy one. The mental struggles to shed the chains brim with conflict and pain.

4) Values vs Pressure: This one is a type of internal conflict that results from external forces placing pressure on a character to do something, say, bully an outsider. The character is brought up against their values, and has to decide whether they want to stay true to them, or, for example, become an outcast too.



External

External conflict is any opposition to the character's actions that don't come from the character themselves. It can come in a lot of different forms, and can be either intentional or unintentional, depending on the source. External conflict can be best utilized to start the character on their arc, and force them to engage in internal battles (and hopefully win) until they are able to finally defeat the external forces. Here are some of the many sources of external conflict:

1) Villains: You probably saw this one coming. Villains have goals and desires that they will do anything to get, including kill, harm, or maybe manipulate the character. In order to reach their goal they get in the way of the character/protagonist's goal, with no regrets. Done right, villains can be a terrifying source of conflict, pain, or hatred.

2) The Environment/Nature: Unless you think the world has a brain, the environment doesn't intentionally set out to harm and kill people. But the weather, or events such as earthquakes, storms, and tsunamis, are forces that characters can hardly stand against, and are often perfect for wrecking plans and heightening the tension. Sickness and disease also fall in this category, as they don't choose their victims, they simply spread.



3) Society: Unlike the villain, society or a wider group of people may not have anything personal against the character and want to destroy their life. They may, however, hold many prejudices, beliefs, and traditions, which could come in conflict with the character's and lead to punishments such as exclusion banishment, or unwillingness to help in their task. If a character is treated like an outcast or criminal at every turn, saving the world might prove more than a little tricky.

4) People: Narrowing the focus from the last type, people close to or who the character knows intimately, can provide a strong obstacle to the character's goal or desire. Parents may not let their child go out late, a close friend might get the character into an argument over how unsafe it will be, or a sibling could threaten to tell a secret if they don't stop. 


Conflict in Isolation

In my opinion, every great scene or book has a diverse mix of internal and external conflict. While internal and external conflict can stand on their own, together they can help writers forge a story that both tells a tale of truth, and leaves the reader's heart pounding as the stakes are raised and raised. There can even be conflict between the internal and the external! For example, the character might desire to make a friend (yet are afraid of rejection), and just as they're about to conquer that fear, a potential friend could abandon her once learning about her heritage.

As with every part of storytelling, the more interwoven concepts and ideas are, the greater and more beautifully complex your story will be. Every story needs conflict to be worth telling, and the grounds for picking which type are ripe.



What's your favourite book that has an amazing mix of internal and external conflict? Do you plan conflict into your stories, or does it come organically? What's your favourite type of conflict?
Best wishes with your writing! <3

As a writer, I tend to spend more time creating my worlds than my characters. This is a big problem when I start drafting, as usually around...

As a writer, I tend to spend more time creating my worlds than my characters. This is a big problem when I start drafting, as usually around halfway I hit a stumbling block, where I realize I don't know enough about my characters or their lives to continue! But as soon as I start exploring what makes my characters who they are, the stumbling block is broken, and the words flow. I may have unearthed a groundbreaking secret, a quiet dream, or maybe finally understood the complexities of their family relationships.

The interesting thing about how I build characters, is it almost always has to do with time. Time (as we know it), is broken into three sections: past, present, and future. In my head, it makes it seem as though I have three characters; the one that was, the one that is, and the one that is dreamt of. A story is about moving through and having a character deal with each of these stages.



If you're stuck on how to develop your character, or looking for a new method to try, here's how I break down my character building process:


Examining the Past

Ask any writer, and they will tell you that backstory is rich soil for planting past hurts, fears, lies, and so on. We all carry our past around with us wherever we go, and constantly compare what we're currently going through with what's happened to us before. For example, a character whose house was burned down may become scared of fire and refuse to light or have candles on at night. As a result, they might not see the assassin creeping into their room...

A character's past will inform their decisions, and often explain away what they do, to whom, and when. What's been done to the character or their loved ones often spurs on the plot, or gives them motivation to, for example, prove themselves to the community. Backstory provides three key elements for your character: 1) their view of the world and people 2) explanations for their actions and words and 3) motivation/fears.

So how do you create a backstory? That could be a whole post in itself, but my favourite way is to ask as many questions as I can until the '?' key is dead. Click here for some questions I compiled to give you a head start.




In the Present

This can be the trickiest part, or version of a character if you will, to form. The present keeps shifting and changing, so how do you figure out who your character is in their present? Backstory and their past is one large building block in who they are during the timeline of your story, but people are never completely their past. There's a lot going on in our brains that doesn't necessarily stem from backstory.

For sanity's sake, let's break it down into three sections. 
1) Relationships -- this is where your character currently stands with the people around them. Most likely these will change over the course of your story, but understanding the 'relationship status' of each one will ground you in how your character will interact with others.
2) Needs -- from love to being hungry, your character's body, heart, or mind, is constantly demanding something. What is it? And how could this bring tension to or disrupt their story or scene goals?
3) Short-Term Plans -- even though your character might have a story goal they're pushing towards, what do they expect their day to look like? Why are they here, and where are they going? I can't tell you how many times I could at last finish writing a scene because I finally understood why my character was there in the first place.




Grasping for the Future

Though you might be able to see and plan the character's future, they can't. Like the rest of humanity, however, they have ideals and long term goals in their heads (if vague ones) which they're consciously or unconsciously pushing towards. A character's future can consist of their dreams, story goals, hopes for the future, and likewise, the secret reality they suspect might actually take place instead. 

I love contrasting characters' hopes for the future with their fears. It is the breeding ground for tension, and really gives you an insight into their personality itself. For example, if a character believes that no matter what their dream will come true, and there is no other future for them, you could describe them as several things, but definitely an optimist. I don't think I need to explain the potential drama and downfall of a character like this.

To discover your character's future desires or dread, asking questions is always the way to go. Interrogate them, ask them their thoughts, and even examine how the threads of their backstory might influence what their answers will be. You might even write out a journal of them expressing their hopes. Whatever works for you, if you can delve into your character's perception of their future, you'll have deepened their motivations, fears, and dreams.


Bringing it All Together

This isn't to say that if you don't know every element of your character's past, present, and future that you won't know your character at all. But personally, my brain loves breaking down elements, and providing clear ways to explore differing (yet linked) elements of a character and other story components. Doing so always pushes me to know my characters better! The past, present, and future of a character is the framework for who they are and what they want.

I hope this post might have sparked some ideas of how to build or develop your characters, whichever part of the process you're in! Maybe your brain is just as crazy as mine. ;)



How do you develop characters? Have you broken your characters down into three "selves" before? Do you think you'll try it?
Have a wonderful day, and enjoy your writing! <3

Before you all maul me with fierce whips of words, let me explain what this post is about. Last year as part of my final research project f...

Before you all maul me with fierce whips of words, let me explain what this post is about. Last year as part of my final research project for a class called Society and Culture, I spent several months looking into the writing community, specifically online communities, and what they mean for writers. I can't share the whole report for copyright reasons, but I am going to share some key findings with you all. Statistics nerds, this one's for you.

The question I asked for my report was: How do writers find belonging and acceptance in their society? I looked at broad society, family and friends, and finally online communities. I partook in various research methods like interviews, content analysis, and a questionnaire, but since this is far from a 10,000 word paper, here are the fun stats!


Of 148 writers who took the questionnaire...

81.1% described their family of being supportive of their writing, while 4.7% said they were not. The other answers ranged between "somewhat supportive" and "only some of them are".

66.2% stated that they felt their society (their surroundings, communities, or country in general) was supportive of their writing passion.

When asked what online writing communities writers were a part of, the top three were those on Facebook (85%), Twitter (53.7%), and blogging sites (47.6%).

98% described their experience with online writing communities an overall positive one. (Yay!)

74.3% of writers have made friends with another writer they've met online.

When asked if they were a part of any offline writing community, 56.8% said "none". The second highest response was meet-ups with other writers at 16.2%, then critique groups at 13.5%.

For writers who were part of both an online and an offline writing community, 37.8% said both communities were equally important to them, while 54.9% said that the online community was far more important.


When asked "How has being part of an offline/online writing community influenced you as a person?" here are some of the many responses...


"It's definitely made me feel less alone and more confident as a writer."

"I am only involved in online writing communities and I have met so many AMAZING people. They have become friends and "sisters" in the craft. I appreciate their support immensely!"

"It keeps me writing"

"I don't think it has?"

"Motivates me, broadens my horizons, and keeps me going. Trains me, makes me into the author I am"

"I have found that a) I'm not alone, b) there are other writers who are experts in areas I struggle with and are willing to help me improve, and c) I now get the opportunity to help others in the area I'm best at. My craft has improved drastically since I joined the online community."


"The online community has been so uplifting. They have come around me when I am discouraged, prayed for me, made me laugh, made me cry from their love. It was my online writer friend that was there for me during my bouts of depression and loneliness."

"I use it mainly for learning opportunities and to drag people along when I get a crazy idea because I get a lot of crazy ideas and sometimes I need minions... er ... friends to help me with them. "

"Unsure. I do feel en element of encouragement from the online communities and they are a source of guidance ."

"I don't have any writing friends IRL. It is nice to have a place where I can talk about my frustrations or ask a question and get a response from someone with the same passion."


And these are just a snapshot of all the responses I'd gotten! While a few didn't gush about the experiences of the online writing community, from my research I saw that by far, the majority of writers in online communities not only improve their craft through joining, but also make strong friendships and connections that encourage, motivate, and beat back loneliness.

So is the writing community really that great? I'd say yes. And I'll let one of the questionnaire participants close:

"The online writing community over at Facebook has truly impacted my life for good. If I hadn’t made the friends I have and learned what I’ve learned ... I shudder to think of where I’d be today. "


Do your experiences mirror the results here? What are your thoughts on the online writing community? Is there anything you'd like me to clarify?
Thanks for being a part of this community. <3

Looking through my recent posts, I realized it's been a long, and I mean long, time since I last updated you all on what's happening...

Looking through my recent posts, I realized it's been a long, and I mean long, time since I last updated you all on what's happening with me. So long that I couldn't find the number of my last 'Am Currently' post. Why not shake things up then? Why not make a new kind of post to share about my writing, life, and reading, behind the quill pen?



I'm still experimenting with the format, so please, let me know what you think! And send any ideas you have my way!



This section will be all about the things I'm grateful for this month, or the last few. I'm realizing how much I complain about... everything, so this is me trying to make myself also appreciate the positives! God's blessed me with so much and being thankful is incredibly important. Right now I'm thankful for...

- A beautiful, green suburb that I can wander without fear for my safety.
- A job where I can make a difference.
- New! Books!
- The opportunity to attend a university and study what I love.
- A new Bible study where I feel welcome.



It would be horrific if I neglected to rant and rave about all the books I've been reading lately, or plan on reading soon! At this point my room has been conquered by books, but I'm not complaining.

Recent Reads:
Love and the Sea and Everything in Between by Brian McBride --- raw, intense, yet weaved with beauty and quiet, endless truths. A must-read for all of you who enjoy contemporary, or those searching for books that represent mental health struggles for what they are.
The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty --- full of spies, deception, and secrets! I love a good political drama, and while the plot twist left me confused for a few chapters, it did blow my mind.
Project Canvas --- it's a treasure trove of advice from young authors all around the world. If you've a question about writing, it probably has the answer somewhere in there. Sooo many nuggets of wisdom!

Current Reads:
Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse --- I'm hooked! Only about a third of the way through, but I love the contrast between Selene's actions and convictions.
Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef --- This is my nonfiction read for the month, and it came strongly recommended. I'm hoping to learn more about the conflict in the Holy Land and the author's journey to accepting Jesus.


True to its name, this section is fairly predictable. Ink and Quill is for me to share about my writing (or lack of it), from short stories to classwork to novel projects.

For the last month or so, as Golden Revenge is off with my lovely editor Audrey Caylin, I've been working on brainstorming, outlining, and beginning the first draft of Call of the Vanished. To sum it up quickly, Call of the Vanished is a portal fantasy following several POVs, the main one being Lonnie, whose sister was the first and only human to ever cross over the portal to another world which appeared in his old backyard. Ever since he's been followed around by a man only he can see. Now an interworld exchange program has opened up, just as Lonnie begins to gain memories showing him that his sister didn't leave Earth willingly after all...

I've been battling to figure out what the story's overarching plot is, and it's changed multiple times at this point. For now I've settled on one, and so comes the difficult part; weaving all the stories together so that they form a tapestry, not a tangled ball of yarn. I may or may not have shifted around or discarded a few POVs at this point. Hopefully I'll have nailed down whose stories I need to share soon!



Here's a quick snippet from the first draft of Call of the Vanished, one of the few paragraphs I can share without giving away spoilers:


Lonie frowned as they came to a stop at the shore of Lake Salter. Naming genius. Light, murky blue lapped at the sky’s lower edge, ripples sending shivers through the orange and pink clouds. Dead trees clawed out of the water. Wind flattened down tuffs of green scrub in the dirty sand, and yanked at Summer’s braid, playing with loose strands. The warmth in her eyes as she smiled pooled in him. 
She was beautiful. There was no other way to say it.



Here's where I'll share everything that doesn't happen behind a screen, pen, or book. In other words, for all the fun life happenings and business that likes to claw time out of my hands. 

I start university (college for my American friends) next week, which is both exciting and nervewracking! My first assignment for my creative writing class is interesting, namely that I have to go to the beach with a few other students and write about it. I'll also be taking a Social and Digital Media class which should be really useful as well.

Apart from that, I'm still English tutoring a few days a week. It can be challenging but also really enjoyable at times! I love helping the kids out with creating stories and workshopping their writing to make it shine.

I probably should have slid this into the gratefulness log, but the Bible Project podcast has been a huge blessing to my life recently. I listen to it when I go for walks or commute to work/uni, and the depth of their teaching is prompting me to explore the Bible and who God is more and more. If you haven't listened to it, I encourage you to start with the first episode of the 'God Series' and work your way through them!



What do you think of the new format? How's life for you at the moment? What have you been reading recently, and how is your writing going? What are you grateful for?
Have a wonderful day! <3

We've all had days where inspiration is nonexistent, where the cursor tauntingly blinks, where the wordcount looks like it's never g...

We've all had days where inspiration is nonexistent, where the cursor tauntingly blinks, where the wordcount looks like it's never going to climb. The days where we don't want to write. Inspiration is a fickle thing, and one of the important steps of becoming a writer is to learn to write with and without it. But how do you start churning out the words when you feel empty of inspiration? How do you make yourself sit down and write despite it all?

It all starts with motivation. Over the last few of my writing years, where inspiration has been on the dry side, I've collected five ways that I motivate myself to write. Some of them might not work for you, but here's hoping that one or two do, and the words pour out!


1) Exercise

Believe me, I thought I would be the last person to ever say this. But exercise doesn't have to consist of intense aerobics, sprinting, and drowning in sweat. To exercise I either dance or I go on a walk around my area. Early morning walks where I listen to podcasts or music always loosen up my body and mind, and I find myself eager to get to the keyboard straight after.

2) Reward System

Bargain with yourself. Think of what you'd rather be doing than writing at the moment, then tell yourself "We can do that when ____." Approaching this post I was torn between being productive and playing the Sims Medieval (such a childhood throwback by the way), and told myself as soon as I finished writing this post, I could play an hour's worth of it. Rewarding yourself also helps your brain associate writing as something that is beneficial, or has enjoyable outcomes, meaning the next time you think about writing, it's more likely to want to do it. 

3) Get Creative

Step outside of your usual activities, and do something creative you've thought about doing for awhile. Draw for the first time in a month. Compose a song. Bring out the paints, or pens, or start that bullet journal you've been planning. Our minds and hearts need to have input before we can output, and almost ironically it's through creating other things without any expectations of perfection or achievement, that my brain settles down and is happy to write.


4) Writing Prompts

Pinterest and other sites are overflowing with these, and a lot are really, really fantastic! As long as you don't get sucked down the wormhole, free writing is a brilliant way to spark ideas and get you writing even if it's not the writing that you were intending to do. Your imagination will appreciate the chance to play around and see what it comes up with. If none of the prompts around you seem interesting, have a look out your window and jot down what you see. Anything to get you started writing!

5) Understand Why

If none of the above or your tried and true techniques work, have a moment of self reflection and ask yourself why it is you have no motivation to write. Maybe you're frustrated with your story and where it's going, and need to spend some time brainstorming. Or maybe it's time to take a break from it, which, as long as you don't give up on yourself as a writer, is completely okay. We all do it. Maybe challenges, whether health or family, are hitting hard right now and you feel drained. Relax. Rest, and pray. For as much as writing consistently is amazing, sometimes the only way to get motivation is to reflect, and wait. 


How do you motivate yourself to write? Do you have any other tips that you'd like to share? Have there been any times where you can't be motivated, no matter what?
Have a wonderful day, and best wishes with your writing. <3