Monday, February 3, 2014

Star Trek and Conflict

Not too long ago my dad had a quadruple bypass. I took my laptop to write while I waited for him to come out of surgery. Silly me. I talked with his wife (and my very good friend) off and on for six hours. I edited one page.

A few days later, my hubby drove our family to see Grandpa. He was doing remarkably well as he moved from bed to wheelchair, laughing at his tubes and scars. It did this daughter's heart good to see him recovering so well.

On the way to and from the hospital the kids watched Star Trek: Into Darkness. We randomly commented on our favorite scenes or said one-liners ("Are you out of your cornfed mind? "). My daughter hates the scene where Captain Kirk is trying to beat up Khan. Kirk punches Khan over and over again as Khan stands seemingly unfazed and Kirk tires out. I told her it was an important scene to show us Kirk reacting out of emotion. Hubby joined in and pointed out it also showed there was more to Khan than what the admiral told us.

That discussion got me thinking about the storyline and gave me some AH HA! moments.

There are constant obstacles, shift of goals and a deeper look inside characters.

It all starts when Kirk's goal is to save a planet and race of primitive people. He steals something, is chased, stuns his ride and has to cliff dive to safety. Meanwhile, Spook is having his own issues with being inside a live volcano.

The rest of the story goes downhill from there, obstacle-wise. Or maybe uphill because the obstacles are winning?
Kirk gets demoted; Captain Pike dies; Scotty resigns; people in torpedos; helmet cracks; etcetcetc
After watching a movie like Star Trek, I always want to go back to my edits and rachet up the tension and throw in more obstacles.

There are so many ways to add conflict and obstacles to a story. What is the one thing your character is afraid of? Threw it at them. Does the character see a clear path to the goal? Send boulders tumbling down. Is their ife perfect and/or are they climbing the corporate ladder successfully? How about a car accident or surprise pregnancy.

These ideas can take the story into so many different directions. The characters reactions and actions will show us their inner and outer struggles and draw us into the story. The characters have to win  too for a couple of reasons:

1. We need to see the contrast between what's important to them and how hard they want to accomplish their goals. We root for characters who have to work hard to get to the top.
2. The reader needs to be brought back from the edge of intensity and given a breather (like in Catching Fire! I almost had to leave the theater because the intensity was so high it stressed me out.).

Usually these scenes are the "talking" scenes as my youngest calls the "boring" parts. But they give us a break so we don't get overwhelmed and shut the book. Writers want the readers to keep turning pages and reading, right?

So: add obstacles and conflict to heighten tension, keep the story moving and help readers to understand characters.
Let the characters win.
Is there a book or movie that keeps you on edge? Why?

Have a great week and just. keep. writing.

Favorite quote from movie: "I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. I only know what I can do."

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