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6 questions to strengthen your WIP. (1 Viewer)

Llyralen

Senior Member
Can you answer these questions by Glenn Gers about your WIPs? I think making conflict very clear in my story using these could strengthen it.

1. Who is it about?
2 What do they want?
3. Why can’t they get it?
4. What do they do about that?
5. Why doesn’t that work?
6. How does it end?

These don’t seem to be just for screen writing.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
You're right. They apply to every story. And I have answers to each of those questions about PiP's and my WIP, but I won't answer them in the open here, because ... spoilers. ;-)

Sometimes #3 and #5 may be major elements of the story, sometimes not so much. #3 may involve convincing the reader the character can't get it, but the character always had a plan. Sometimes #5 is convincing the reader the plan won't work, but it does for a surprising or clever reason (that the reader had clues to but won't put them together).

Now, to stir the pot, I had a discussion almost a year ago about plots with no conflict (since you used the word it reminded me of it). I got royally roasted for broaching such an idea, but it turns out there are name authors who believe it is possible to craft an entertaining story without conflict. I haven't done it. I have PLENTY of conflict in all my plots. However, I'd love to write such a story some day.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
You're right. They apply to every story.
After I posted, I’ve been trying to think if these 6 questions apply to literary works… I think it is often more nuanced. Maybe The Great Gatsby just spent a lot of time on question #1 or #2 or maybe what they want is conflicted too. Nick is interesting because he really is just a narrator/observer/witness who also kind of just throws in every once in a while that he is a person with personal desires too, but those never take over. What Nick wants is to just observe and see if Gatsby’s optimism wins and Nick’s conflict to get this isn’t strong. His conflict isn’t about being stopped from viewing until the end but his conflict is, I guess, his own optimism or cynicism and maybe if he should be viewing it at all. I guess what is at stake is Nick’s hope that Gatsby will succeed/be okay.

I guess sometimes #2 is not what they want to get but what they want to keep and we re-frame the question as “What are the stakes?”

Sometimes the desire isn’t spelled out clearly, yet we still know what they want very clearly. In Joyce’s The Dead he re-discovers this intimacy that he wants with his wife and we know he wants to be seen as the go-to guy, the successful guy. He never says so directly, I don’t think? It’s never “the object” directly. In Hamlet you know by Hamlet’s hesitation (and there is only one soliloquy stating this) that he really doesn’t want to kill his uncle outright and would rather that something else expose his uncle first. So sometimes “What you want” is conflicted in itself?

I think with romances they sometimes spend a lot of time on question #1 and #2 and the conflict is sometimes in deciding what you want?

These questions might be too simply put to help as much with some stories, although I think the process of asking them is helpful any time. But with my current WIP which is kind of like a short story, these questions help.

Sometimes #3 and #5 may be major elements of the story, sometimes not so much. #3 may involve convincing the reader the character can't get it, but the character always had a plan. Sometimes #5 is convincing the reader the plan won't work, but it does for a surprising or clever reason (that the reader had clues to but won't put them together).
Interesting! I haven’t thought about playing with readers like this yet, but I bet I would think of it for mystery writing.
Now, to stir the pot, I had a discussion almost a year ago about plots with no conflict (since you used the word it reminded me of it). I got royally roasted for broaching such an idea, but it turns out there are name authors who believe it is possible to craft an entertaining story without conflict. I haven't done it. I have PLENTY of conflict in all my plots. However, I'd love to write such a story some day.
Do you have any examples? I’m trying to wrack my brain for some possible examples. Roals Dahl is coming to my mind for some reason, although there is PERIL in his stories…but in some of them not conflict? Ugh, I’m not sure! I don’t know if those can be two separate things or not.

At any rate, asking questions like this help me study my own story to see where it can be stronger.
 
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VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Do you have any examples? I’m trying to wrack my brain for some possible examples. Roals Dahl is coming to my mind for some reason, although there is PERIL in his stories…but in some of them not conflict? Ugh, I’m not sure! I don’t know if those can be two separate things or not.

At any rate, asking questions like this help me study my own story to see where it can be stronger.
There is discussion .... debated, that Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama is such a story. It's all about exploration, but it does have some peril. I pointed out a story I think is such an example, about a boy who got a job tending a rich lady's lawn. She gave him a range of prices he could charge for his work, depending on how well he thought he'd done. He never charged the top of the scale, then one day got there early, worked late, and considered he'd done the perfect job. When he asked for the top price, the lady asked to be escorted around her property to see the work, not to check whether he'd earned it, but because she wanted to enjoy seeing such results. It's a very uplifting story.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
[...]
Now, to stir the pot, I had a discussion almost a year ago about plots with no conflict (since you used the word it reminded me of it). I got royally roasted for broaching such an idea, but it turns out there are name authors who believe it is possible to craft an entertaining story without conflict. I haven't done it. I have PLENTY of conflict in all my plots. However, I'd love to write such a story some day.
Although Clarke's 'The Sentinel' is a short story without conflict, and yet it led to ALL of his Odyssey novels.
 

Riptide

WF Veterans
You know how much I struggle with character motivation? So much. I'm trying to write a query and every time I get it critiqued I get steamrolled by the lack of character drive.
So... I have no clue what my character wants, other than to end the war?
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
You know how much I struggle with character motivation? So much. I'm trying to write a query and every time I get it critiqued I get steamrolled by the lack of character drive.
So... I have no clue what my character wants, other than to end the war?
Wanting a war to end sounds like a perfectly good motivation to me. Would wanting to stay alive be another one for your character? Or not so much?
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Reminds me of an analogy an old friend used to use:

You come across a dog sitting on the sidewalk, howling in pain.
The dog's owner is there, so you ask: Why is your dog howling?
The answer is: He's sitting on a nail.
You ask: Why doesn't he just stand up and get off the nail?
The answer: I guess it doesn't hurt that bad.

If you're struggling with character motivation, try raising the stakes.
 

Riptide

WF Veterans
Reminds me of an analogy an old friend used to use:

You come across a dog sitting on the sidewalk, howling in pain.
The dog's owner is there, so you ask: Why is your dog howling?
The answer is: He's sitting on a nail.
You ask: Why doesn't he just stand up and get off the nail?
The answer: I guess it doesn't hurt that bad.

If you're struggling with character motivation, try raising the stakes.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stakes here for all of humanity. If she doesn't do this thing, then a solid portion of mankind will just die off, the aliens will win, life will cease being what it is, and of course, her death. They're stakes for everyone, basically. People want more personal motivation, which maybe I'm just bad at putting into a query letter.
Wanting a war to end sounds like a perfectly good motivation to me. Would wanting to stay alive be another one for your character? Or not so much?
That's what I'm saying! And that's a 2ndary motivation, for siure
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stakes here for all of humanity. If she doesn't do this thing, then a solid portion of mankind will just die off, the aliens will win, life will cease being what it is, and of course, her death. They're stakes for everyone, basically. People want more personal motivation, which maybe I'm just bad at putting into a query letter.

That's what I'm saying! And that's a 2ndary motivation, for siure
Those stakes are all external - other than her own death - which is a strong motivation. Saving humanity is sort of nebulous, can you make it more personal?
What is her internal struggle? Is she a passivist forced to kill? Can you use the save-the-cat trope?
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
Now, to stir the pot, I had a discussion almost a year ago about plots with no conflict (since you used the word it reminded me of it). I got royally roasted for broaching such an idea, but it turns out there are name authors who believe it is possible to craft an entertaining story without conflict. I haven't done it. I have PLENTY of conflict in all my plots. However, I'd love to write such a story some day.

This the one where we discussed Chekhov's unfired gun?

Good times.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
@Llyralen, Thanks for making this into a thread of its own.

I saw a different interview with Glenn Gers before this one where he referenced the 6 questions and he also mentioned two other really interesting things that resounded with me:
1. EVERY character thinks that they are the main character.
2. Think in scenes.

I already am thinking in scenes so that just made me feel good. The thing about characters all thinking that they are the MC was really great, too. I sat down with my cast of names and asked myself the 6 questions for each of them, just dashing off quick answers for each one. Suddenly I had ideas for how various subplots might go.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
@Llyralen, Thanks for making this into a thread of its own.

I saw a different interview with Glenn Gers before this one where he referenced the 6 questions and he also mentioned two other really interesting things that resounded with me:
1. EVERY character thinks that they are the main character.
2. Think in scenes.

I already am thinking in scenes so that just made me feel good. The thing about characters all thinking that they are the MC was really great, too. I sat down with my cast of names and asked myself the 6 questions for each of them, just dashing off quick answers for each one. Suddenly I had ideas for how various subplots might go.
That is a great idea! An opportunity to enrich the story. I’m going to do this for sure.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Those stakes are all external - other than her own death - which is a strong motivation. Saving humanity is sort of nebulous, can you make it more personal?
What is her internal struggle? Is she a passivist forced to kill? Can you use the save-the-cat trope?
Remind me about the save the cat trope? Oh wait, there’s a bell going off, isn’t that where you make people like your character more by having them save something/someone/some cat?
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stakes here for all of humanity. If she doesn't do this thing, then a solid portion of mankind will just die off, the aliens will win, life will cease being what it is, and of course, her death. They're stakes for everyone, basically. People want more personal motivation, which maybe I'm just bad at putting into a query letter.

That's what I'm saying! And that's a 2ndary motivation, for siure
What higher stakes can there be, really? Can we brainstorm with you on the query letter? I guess you can always add a personal reason if needed. In Braveheart and in Gladiator the murdered wife is memorable…. Eek…. What does it take?
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
What about thinking about the external about want and internal need? While the want can to my understanding address these. I find myself thinking of need not as a lesson but is what character could subconsciously want to do to accomplish the external goal. The desire to be wealthy won't necessarily solve the problem of a character if they wish to be popular for example. Every change that happens to your character can also happen to be needed to be reversed and the character grows due to the conflict's circumstances probably caused by the character that created it or these. Some plots are more external than internal. Internal conflict such as a moral quandry, worldview, status for example can be what the character needs to change internally. External events are simply good news or bad news. Imagine you are a reporter for everyday life. You record things that will have lasting effects on people's lives. Bad news: my uncle divorced his wife. What problems will it cause?
 
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