Story Bite #4: On Conflict

Conflict is an essential part of any good story. It’s what you throw at your characters to make their lives difficult. Conflict can be as universal as someone/something threatening destruction of the world, or as personal as trying to avoid hurt feelings. Conflict is what stands in the way of your character’s attempts to achieve a goal, or what makes the goal necessary, or what just makes your character miserable.

For this writing prompt, please take a look at one of my best friends at the National Museum of Scotland: the Megaloceros giganteus (or giant deer).

I love this exhibit. I want to put this skeleton in a novel one day… Photo: Diane Magras

Impressive, is it not? This 12,300-year-old skeleton from the Isle of Man dominates the end of a long, bright, airy space. I’ve always seen it surrounded by light.

Light! I love this museum too, if you haven’t guessed. Photo: Diane Magras

But let’s imagine Giant Deer in the museum in the dark, at midnight, with only tiny security lights blinking about the room. And let’s imagine that it’s alive.

What does Giant Deer want?

To get outside?

To go to sleep forever?

To see/chat with/destroy (gasp!) the other exhibits?

Merely to talk a walk around the museum?

Pick a goal from this list or create your own goal for the Giant Deer, ask yourself why it wants that, and then answer this: What is preventing it from doing what it wants?

That’s your conflict.

Conflict is especially powerful when it pits two people (or creatures, or a person and a creature) against one another. So you may want to create a second character to make Giant Deer’s conflict especially tense.

How about a kid who’s there as well, having sneaked into the museum after hours?

Now this can get deliciously complicated. But we need to know a few more things before we go on, namely what the kid is doing there:

To test his/her/their courage?

To escape a monster (human or supernatural)?

To run away from a dangerous situation at home?

To figure out how to save an exhibit that’s about to be put in storage or sold? (Perhaps to take said exhibit? And what if said exhibit is Giant Deer…)

Once you know why the kid is in the museum at night, start creating your story bite.

Let’s make this scene an encounter between Giant Deer and the kid, a meeting that shows your conflict (whatever that’s preventing Giant Deer from getting what it wants). You decide if the meeting goes well or not. Make it as funny, creepy, or dramatic as you choose. Write a paragraph or a page or more, if you’d like

Good luck with this one! And I hope you have fun!

 

Directions:
If you’d like to share your story bite with me, please submit it through your teacher or with your school email address or home email address and include: your first name, grade, school’s name (or “homeschooled”), town, and state.

Teachers: if your make story bites part of a lesson, please let me know how it went. And share them! I’d love to see your students’ work.

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